Airlifting 250 tons of relief supplies to alleviate a humanitarian crisis on the other side of the hemisphere requires layers coordination between multiple military and civilian agencies in a condensed timeframe.
But that’s just what Airmen of the 305th Air Mobility Wing accomplished Feb. 16, delivering more than 35 pallets of humanitarian cargo to the Colombian city of Cucuta, located on the border with neighboring Venezuela, where the cargo is destined.
Maj. Trevor Kauffeld of the 6th Airlift Squadron at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., served as the mission commander, the Air Force’s tactical-level point person responsible for the success of the mission.
He said humanitarian missions are relatively rare in general, and this one required him to continue planning and coordinating even as the execution had already begun.
“This is the definition of Rapid Global Mobility,” Kauffeld said. “It was a short-notice, high-priority tasking that required quick planning and execution, involving multiple military and civilian agencies.”
Those agencies included the Department of State, the United States Agency for International Development, U.S. Southern Command and multiple units from Joint Base Charleston, S.C., and Joint Base MDL.
On the ground at Cucuta, five contingency response Airmen from Joint Base MDL led efforts to download and stage the cargo.
Senior Airman Eric Feliciano, 621st Contingency Response Wing, said he was humbled to participate in the mission.
"Missions like this help us reinforce the concept of 'what you do matters' because it does," Feliciano said. "Our team is grateful to be blessed with such an opportunity to work with the Colombians and execute the mission."
Kauffeld said he’s now vested in the crisis.
“I’ve been following the news every day to see if the humanitarian aid makes it across the border to the people who truly need it,” he said.
Capt. Susan Jennie, a 6th AS pilot who participated in the mission, said contributing to humanitarian missions is one of the best aspects of working with cargo planes.
“The opportunity to fly these kinds of missions was my biggest motivation to train and fly on the C-17,” she said. “To be able to help out and bring aid to those in need, when needed, is one of the most rewarding opportunities I’ve been presented in my life and career.”
Kauffeld said the airlift portion of the mission went well and achieved its objective, but he feels like the mission isn’t quite complete.
“In humanitarian missions, we see the direct connection where the cargo meets the people who need it,” Kauffeld said. “In this case, we’re still waiting for that connection.”