ALTUS AFB, OK, UNITED STATES
Story by Airman 1st Class Breanna Klemm
Nearly 42 tons of rice and soy meals were gathered, packaged and flown to Honduras as part of the Department of Defense’s mission in support of humanitarian efforts, where they collaborate to donate and ship meals to countries in need through the Denton Program. The Mighty 97th was responsible for the safety and packaging of the meals onto a C-17 Globemaster III scheduled to deliver the food to Honduras, Oct. 24, 2019, at Altus Air Force Base, Okla.
The Denton program allows private U.S. citizens and organizations to use available space on U.S. military cargo planes to transport humanitarian goods in areas with extreme poverty and hunger. This has been the one of the most recent donations in 15 months, and the Mighty 97th proudly received and processed the mass shipment of meals scheduled to be flown to Honduras on a C-17 assigned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord AFB, Wash.
“Joint missions, such as the Denton Program, are great all around for the military to practice readiness,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Garrett Sicafoose, a loadmaster assigned to the 8th Airlift Squadron at McChord. “It gives us the opportunity to work with other bases and other faces we are not used to. It really opens one’s eyes to what the Air Force’s airlift capabilities are and how quickly we can provide a response to those in need of help.”
When the mass shipment of rice and soy meals arrived at Altus AFB by truck, the 97th Air Operations Flight spent the week properly packing and preparing the food to be loaded aboard the C-17. The Air Operations Flight (Air Ops. Flight), assigned to the 97th Logistics Readiness Squadron, loaded a total of 83,000 pounds of meals which would fly to Honduras later that day.
“Our role in this mission is where the rubber meets the road,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Clinton Collins, the air freight section chief assigned to the Air Ops. Flight. “Everything from the scheduling of the cargo’s arrival to the downloading of the 83,000 pounds of food onto the C-17 happened right here in the Air Ops. flight – we made sure the meals were airworthy and would accomplish its mission.”
Honduras is currently the third poorest country in Latin America and the Caribbean where malnutrition reaches 35% of the total population and 48.5% of residents in rural areas. This shipment of meals will be sent to schools, orphanages, general feeding programs for families, hospitals and areas in desperate need of nutrition. Over 470,000 people in Honduras will benefit from the donation.
The meals included in this shipment were provided by the Foundation for Christ, a non-profit organization that is heavily involved in schools, orphanages and hospitals. This program oversees all the resources needed to transport, distribute and assist those in need along with a large support team trained to supervise and administer a project.
“This mission is especially important for the military,” said Sicafoose. “Humanitarian missions allows us to show the world that we, as the military, are not just focused on getting our mission done. It shows we actually go out and help people in other nations who are in need during times of crisis; it’s truly a powerful feeling.”
Airmen from across the Air Force continue to promote joint military partnership practice and improve their communities by providing service and sacrifice for not only our nation, but for countries across the globe.