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Altus Airmen deliver aid to Liberia

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Nathan Clark
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
Ten Airmen from the 97th Air Mobility Wing delivered humanitarian and medical supplies to Liberia Sept. 25 - Oct. 3, 2014, in support of Operation United Assistance to provide aid to the Ebola stricken region.

The Ebola virus epidemic has grown since March 2014, killing thousands in Africa and presenting a threat to the world. President Barack Obama has stated the U.S. will be leading the effort to fight the virus using a civilian-led, whole-of-government approach.

This approach gave Altus Air Force Base, a base dedicated to training pilots, loadmasters and inflight refueling boom operators, an opportunity to help with a real-world issue.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Will McDougall, assistant director of operations with the 58th Airlift Squadron, said six instructor pilots and four instructor loadmasters with the 58th took more than 180,000 pounds of medical and humanitarian aid in two C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft.

The medical supplies were taken to a nearby hospital and the humanitarian supplies were taken to a site near the airport in Monrovia, the country's capital, said U.S. Air Force Maj. Mathew Foss, a formal training unit evaluator pilot with the 58th. The humanitarian supplies were intended for living quarters being built for U.S. Army Soldiers, which will be adjacent to a field hospital being set up near the airport.

"We were very well received and our help was clearly appreciated by the residents," said McDougall. "They were eager to get the supplies. That was the most rewarding thing to see."

President Obama met with his senior advisors Oct. 6 to review the U.S. response to the epidemic. "As I've said from the start of this outbreak, I consider this a top national security priority. This is not just a matter of charity - although obviously the humanitarian toll in countries that are affected in West Africa is extraordinarily significant. This is an issue about our safety. It is also an issue with respect to the political stability and the economic stability in this region," said the president.

"It's not very often Altus crews get to support Air Mobility Command in this way," said McDougall. "We were all very happy to directly impact the humanitarian effort."

Foss said he saw several agencies and military branches working together in Liberia, including the U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force and the United Nations among others.

Foss agrees with the U.S. taking responsibility. He said, "Helping with the effort there helps protect us at home."

The whole-of-government approach being used to contain the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa is not just a term. It's putting any government agency that can help into the fight, including a U.S. Air Force training base in Oklahoma. Even though Altus is known for its training mission, Airmen here are able to deploy in support of larger Air Force and DOD objectives when called upon.