JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas —
Whenever worldwide crises require a rapid, humanitarian response from the U.S. Air Force, the 502nd Logistics Readiness Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland is ready to answer the call.
The squadron successfully processed and loaded more than nine tons of medical cargo onto an aircraft at JBSA-Lackland Kelly Air Annex Field Nov. 12 bound for Honduras. The cargo is scheduled to be assembled into a mobile medical facility that will bring much-needed aid to more than 2,000 men, women and children in that country.
The cargo was shipped as part of the Jeremiah Denton Amendment, a Department of Defense provision that allows the U.S. Air Force to ship privately donated humanitarian assistance cargo to foreign countries using military transportation on a space-available basis.
“This mission shows just how far we can reach,” said Staff Sgt. Joseph Costancio, 502nd LRS senior controller of air terminal operation center. “We don’t just reach into the United States; we can get to places like Honduras on a couple days notice if it’s really needed.”
From Nov. 9-12, Costancio, along with Lt. Col. Thomas Miner, 502nd Security Forces and Logistics Support Group commander, oversaw the loading operation for the Honduras project. The cargo arrived mid-week from Houston on a flatbed truck as a single 40-foot container at 16,800 pounds net weight. Costancio’s crew used a crane to lift the package off the flatbed and separated the cargo onto five separate pallets, all with a total weight of 18,000 pounds.
By the end of their mission, Nov. 12, the squadron had inspected the transporting aircraft for air worthiness, marked and weighed the cargo, and established a load plan. Just after noon that day, the team then pushed the cargo onto the aircraft, manned by personnel from the 701st Airlift Squadron, and the plane departed for its destination.
“Everything went pretty smoothly,” Costancio said. “When it comes to humanitarian missions, we have to be constantly ready to send out aid, cargo or passengers, if need be.”
While Costancio’s team regularly ships military cargo, privately donated supplies can pose additional challenges for the 502nd LRS.
“This isn’t a normal movement for us,” Costancio explained. “With private supplies, you are relying on a bunch of different, moving pieces and partners. We usually only get this type of assignment twice a year, and when we do, get it it’s almost always a humanitarian mission.”
These partners included volunteers from Texas A&M University, private cargo shippers from Houston and airlift coordinators from Charleston, S.C.
“Once we get word that we’re handling a shipment like this, we’re immediately coordinating with a bunch of different parties involved,” Costancio explained. “We’ve got to stay coordinated.”
The squadron’s ability to deliver aid on such a tight timeframe is also instrumental, Costancio noted.
“The fact that we turned this around on a short timetable speaks for itself,” he explained.
Working over a weekend wasn’t a big deal for the crew, which worked until Nov. 12 to get the shipment out on time, according to 502nd LRS reports.
“We needed a couple extra bodies outside of normal work hours, but our people stepped up,” Costancio said. “It was cool to see us handle the project that quickly.