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Hawaii ANG crews fly C-17s to assist Haiti relief effort

A member of the Hawaii Air National Guard prepares to depart with a C-17 Globemaster III fromHickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, Jan. 19, 2010, to Charleston AFB, S.C. to take part in humanitarian relief efforts in Haiti. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Mike Meares)

A member of the Hawaii Air National Guard prepares to depart with a C-17 Globemaster III fromHickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, Jan. 19, 2010, to Charleston AFB, S.C. to take part in humanitarian relief efforts in Haiti. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Mike Meares)

HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii -- Pacific Air Forces deployed seven C-17 Globemaster III aircraft Jan. 19 to Charleston AFB, S.C., to support the U.S. military's Haitian relief effort, Operation Unified Response.

Three of the aircraft belonged to the 535th and 204th Airlift Squadrons here and four deployed from the 517th and 249th Airlift Squadrons at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska. Team Hickam provided three augmented crews comprised of three pilots, two loadmasters and two flying crew chiefs per crew, including members of the Hawaii Air National Guard.

The aircraft and crews will rotate in to Haiti from Charleston AFB to provide airlift services as needed.

A 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck the island Jan. 12, inflicting widespread damage, death and injuries.

"The squadron got notification of the mission at approximately 8 a.m., local time Monday," said Lt. Col. Andrew Leshikar, 535th AS commander. "We had three crews put into required crew rest and the first aircraft departed Tuesday at 10:15 a.m."

Aircrew personnel operating the PACAF aircraft are comprised of active duty and Air National Guard members from the 154th Wing.

"All three Hickam aircraft belong to the 15th Airlift Wing, but were flown in conjunction with our total force partners at the 204th," said Leshikar.

The military response in Haiti is led by Army Lt. Gen. Ken Keen, deputy commander of U.S. Southern Command. The Air Force is part of the joint, interagency team supporting an international effort to bring humanitarian assistance to the Haitian people.

"We train on a daily basis to support contingency operations including humanitarian relief and disaster relief missions," said Leshikar. "Seeing the devastation in Haiti makes us very aware of how lucky we are we are to have what we have. We look forward to being able to provide critical supplies to the people of Haiti in their time in need."