Image of the Air Force wings with the museum name underneath

Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 
FREE Admission & Parking

Humanitarian Missions: Aerial Delivery

Airdrops are a fast and effective way to get badly needed food, water, and other critical supplies to those affected by a humanitarian crisis. Suspended above the exhibit are two simulated Container Delivery System (CDS) bundles, each at a different point in its descent. Each 48” x 48” bundle contains boxes of Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) packed into an A-22 cargo bag and placed on a ¾ inch plywood base, or skid board, and five layers of a special shock absorbent cardboard called honeycomb.

During an actual humanitarian airdrop mission, a maximum of sixteen CDS bundles can be released from a C-130; a C-17 can carry up to 40. Once deployed, their single G-12E parachute keeps each bundle upright and slows their descent to about 70 to 90 feet per second.

A third simulated CDS bundle rests on the ground where it has landed in its drop zone. To prepare for an actual humanitarian airdrop mission, USAF airlift and ground personnel select drop zones based on a variety of factors including altitude and airspeed of the aircraft at the drop point, ease of access to the drop zone, and any obstacles such as trees, power lines, or water.

A HELAMS allows USAF airmen to manage the complicated business of delivering humanitarian aid within a sturdy and functional shelter that can be easily moved and quickly put together.

USAF personnel providing humanitarian aid or disaster relief need temporary structures that are rugged, secure, and easy to transport and assemble. A Hard-sided Expandable Light Air Mobile Shelter fits the bill. At just over 20 feet wide when fully expanded, and equipped with electrical systems, heat, air conditioning, and lighting, a HELAMS can safely and securely house up to 10 people performing a variety of functions.

Typically used for command, control and communications, a HELAMS comes equipped with a powerful communication system that includes high frequency radios needed to maintain communication between ground personnel and aircraft landing or taking off. HELAMS are also versatile and can be configured to support other functions such as security operations or specialized medical missions.

Weighing in at just over 6,000 pounds and made from lightweight stainless steel and aluminum, a HELAMS can be flight delivered via aircraft or helicopter, carried on railcars or offloaded from trucks. Within hours a DAF humanitarian mission can have fully-functioning command, control, communications, and computer systems up and running.

Visitors to the exhibit can stand in HELAMS 08. The 621 Contingency Response Wing used HELAMS 08 in Operation UNIFIED RESPONSE during the 2010 Haiti earthquake and to support Ebola virus containment efforts in West African nations during Operation UNITED ASSISTANCE in 2014.

Every year, the Department of the Air Force delivers humanitarian goods to more than 50 remote islands in the Pacific Ocean. Operation Christmas Drop began in 1952 and remains the world’s longest running humanitarian airlift mission. This training exercise allows participating aircrew to gain experience in conducting drops while providing critical supplies to more than 20,000 people every December.

Staged at Andersen AFB, Guam, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, and Yokota AB, Japan, airmen work with regional partners and volunteers to prepare and coordinate the deliveries. Pallets of donated goods including food, fishing equipment, clothing, school supplies, and toys are assembled and loaded on C-130 Hercules aircraft and dropped at low altitude to the islanders.

During this week-long international charity effort, the DAF partners with other allied nations and non-profit organizations. This heartwarming humanitarian mission builds trust and goodwill while enhancing readiness for future disaster relief.

On January 12, 2010, a massive 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck the Caribbean island nation of Haiti. The earthquake devastated the capital city of Port-au-Prince, collapsing thousands of buildings and injuring or killing more than 500,000 people. Millions more were displaced from their homes without power, food and water, or proper sanitation. The Haitian government declared a national emergency and requested immediate assistance from the US and international partners.

The US responded to the humanitarian crisis by launching Operation Unified Response. US Air Force personnel were among the first to arrive on the island and began reopening airfields and repairing critical infrastructure. Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) pararescuemen and medics searched for survivors trapped in the rubble of the city and provided medical care to the injured.
The earthquake damaged Haiti’s international airport prohibiting the delivery of much-needed supplies. Within a day, AFSOC combat controllers arrived to reestablish air traffic control operations. For the next two weeks, the team coordinated more than 4,000 flights, about one every five minutes using hand-held tactical radios from a tent with card table and chairs set up near the runway. Their efforts ensured the safe delivery of thousands of tons of life saving supplies and aid workers from around the world. USAF airlifters delivered 19 million pounds of humanitarian supplies and transported almost 6,000 service members to aid in rescue and recovery. USAF air mobility squadrons evacuated 15,000 displaced American citizens from Haiti and time-sensitive aeromedical evacuations for 223 critical Haitian patients.

Humanitarian Daily Rations
Humanitarian daily rations (HDRs) were developed in 1993 specifically for supplying civilians and other non-military personnel with a full day’s supply of food during humanitarian crises. The packages are compact, but calorically dense and nutritionally well-balanced. They are all at least 2,200 calories and always contain two entrees, peanut butter, and a fruit paste or jam suitable for feeding infants, among other things.
HDRs were designed to accommodate a range of cultural, religious, and dietary restrictions to ensure the widest possible acceptance. They contain no animal products or animal by-products except for minimal dairy, and no alcohol or alcohol-based ingredients, including the moist towelette.

Pacific Friendship: Operation TOMODACHI
In 2011, Japan suffered a major earthquake and tsunami that caused a massive radiation release from a nuclear power plant. The US Air Force played an important role in the US-Japan relief effort.

On March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9.0 undersea earthquake shook the coast of northeast Japan. It caused a tidal wave, or tsunami, that devastated the coast, killed thousands, and severely damaged the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Three of its reactors suffered melt-downs and released deadly radiation.

As many as 28,000 people died or went missing in the triple disaster, and 340,000 were displaced. American and Japanese military forces responded immediately. Operation TOMO-DACHI (tomodachi means ‘friend’) engaged the US Air Force, Navy, Army, and Marines in relief efforts through early May 2011.

In the first two weeks after the disasters, USAF crews flew 225 missions and transported 4.2 million pounds of relief supplies and equipment. Air Force efforts in addition to resupply included search and rescue, reconnaissance of the nuclear disaster, expert radiation assessment, air base support and debris clearing, and the use of several air bases as staging areas.

Student Rescue: Operation URGENT FURY
In 1983, a military coup in the Caribbean island nation of Grenada threatened the safety of American medical students studying there. After a short battle, US forces evacuated the students.

The overthrow of Grenada’s government concerned US officials. The Marxist coup overthrew an already Marxist government that had seized power in 1979 and had allowed Cuba to build an airstrip that could help communists disrupt African and South American nations. The growing disorder was also a threat to the US and to international trade.

President Ronald Reagan did not want to repeat the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979-1981. Invited to intervene by Caribbean nations, US and regional forces invaded to restore democracy and evacuate Americans. US Air Force, Navy, Army, and Marine forces combined with six Caribbean nations to restore democracy to Grenada. Within a week, they had taken the island.

The USAF airlifted nearly 700 medical students from Grenada and repatriated 755 Cubans. Airmen performed a wide range of missions including reconnaissance, close air support, troop and cargo delivery, casualty and evacuee transportation, air refueling, psychological warfare missions, and communications and air control.

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