An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Wingmen at their best

  • Published
  • By Deborah Mercurio
  • 377th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Katrina, the hurricane that devastated the Gulf area, is a name that will be long remembered. The havoc of this storm is truly indescribable, and Americans are stunned as they view images on their television. Most responded emotionally, but once in check and true to form, this great nation has risen to take care of its own.

Team Kirtland responded with such a force that some might say it matched the force of the storm that had slammed into the Gulf area. Without hesitation, without missing a beat, we answered the call to serve. We stepped up as true wingmen.

When the Air Force Materiel Command headquarters sent out the call to task Airmen, it turned out not to be a tasking at all because many jumped at the opportunity to volunteer.

One of the first to go from Team Kirtland was Capt. Morgan O'Brien, deputy director of the Public Affairs Office. He is a PA officer at the forward headquarters of Joint Task Force Katrina at Camp Shelby, Miss., working for Army Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honore, the Ragin' Cajun.

"I didn't hesitate to volunteer. This opportunity to serve our nation ... to serve our Air Force epitomizes why I joined," said the captain.

Almost immediately following his departure, a call came in on Sept. 2 for 18 Security Forces members to deploy in less than 18 hours. Team Kirtland rallied to make it happen. Specialists across the board-medics, chaplains, transporters, personnel specialists, lawyers, comptrollers and others-gathered to form one cohesive team to ensure these Airmen were processed accordingly and appropriately for their mission. The processing line went like clockwork; actually the line beat the clock because those deploying were processed in record time. Several hours later, they departed on a C-130 for Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., to provide relief support for their fellow security forces' comrades there.

The following day, our command post received a call from the mayor of Albuquerque, Martin Chavez. He told us to expect a plane transporting displaced Americans. A battle staff was convened and in a matter of hours the flightline and Aero Club hangar became a reception center equipped with food, water, portable toilets, medical stations, tables and chairs. All were staffed by members of Team Kirtland partnering with members from our downtown family. The Red Cross, Albuquerque police and fire, the city transit, city ambulance and Sunport Airport representatives joined Team Kirtland to become one entity to welcome and care for the precious cargo that soon touched down.

When the C-9 landed, the looks on the faces of these displaced Americans as they emerged from the aircraft were ones of awe. Most had probably never flown on a plane or had ever stepped foot out of New Orleans. Col. Terry Feehan, 377th Air Base Wing commander, along with Governor Bill Richardson and Mayor Chavez, welcomed them warmly, generating smiles that had probably remained dormant for some time. After clearing through the hangar, the evacuees boarded buses and were transported to the convention center downtown.

Colonel Feehan proudly assesses Team Kirtland's tremendous humanitarian efforts by saying, "I was very proud of Team Kirtland after the Nuclear Surety Inspection, but our response to this real-world emergency shows the wing's true character. The United States Air Force and the people of our great nation can count on us every time."

More displaced Americans are expected to arrive. It won't matter when, what time or how many because without a doubt Team Kirtland will be ready.