Total force effort ensures successful typhoon evacuation

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Orlando Corpuz
  • 154th Wing Public Affairs
A C-17 Globemaster III cargo plane and crew  from the Hawaii Air National Guard evacuated more than 125 Department of Defense members from Wake Island, July 14, 2015.

The evacuation was executed as Typhoon Halola, which at the time was packing sustained winds in excess of 100-mph had a forecasted track that took it dangerously close to the isolated atoll located roughly 2300 miles west of the Hawaiian Islands.

Wake Island functions as a divert airfield or primary stopping point for cross-Pacific military flights. At any one time, more than 100 DoD personnel are on station to maintain and operate the airfield there.

It was planned to be a routine training day with roughly three hours of flying time around the Hawaiian Islands for the all guard crew who reported for duty that morning. Upon learning of the real world assignment, the crew sprang into action.

"We train for the unexpected. When leadership tasked us with the emergency evacuation of Wake Island, so many things go through your mind. Are we ready for this mission?  What dangers should we be aware of?" said aircraft commander, Capt. Skip Saito with the 204th Airlift Squadron.

"All questions aside, we were confident and ready to execute anything that was brought to us. That is what we train for."

The crew of five took off from Honolulu at 11am and roughly four and a half hours later landed on Wake Island. With engines still running, Wake Island personnel and their personal effects were loaded onto the C-17. The C-17 was airborne just over one hour after landing, this time with a flight plan taking it to Andersen, AFB in Guam, where the evacuees would remain until the storm passed.

"As a Hawaii Air National Guard crew we are here for relief and humanitarian support in the event natural disaster hits the state of Hawaii. Expanding our support to the territories of the United States of America shows that we are not limited in what we do" said, Saito.

An evacuation mission such as this highlights Pacific Air Force's flexibility to generate air response quickly across the theater, a key component to air power.

"This was an exceptional team effort utilizing guard, active, and civilian members of our Air Force to safeguard life and property" said Air Force Col. Gregory Woodrow, vice-commander of the 154th Wing, Hawaii Air National Guard. "We are all extremely proud of the professionalism and can do attitudes displayed by all."