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36th MRS, 736th SFS lifelines for Pacific disaster relief

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Shane Dunaway
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs
When disaster strikes at home or on the highways, people call 911 for assistance, but who do people call for disasters of epic proportions? 

The Pacific region has its own version of 911 when typhoons, tsunamis and other significant natural disasters occur - the 36th Contingency Response Group's 36th Mobility Response Squadron and 736th Security Forces Squadron, two units dedicated to delivering every last bottle of water to those in need. 

Together, the 36th MRS and the 736th SFS make up what is known as an Air Base Opening package. They are always on standby to deploy within 12 hours of notification. Before a humanitarian aid or disaster relief effort begins, the initial action taken involves sending an assessment team to the affected region. The 8-man assessment team hosts representative from SFS, Command and Control, logistics, supply, and other agencies determined on basis of need. 

"We roll out with five days (of) supplies on our backs," said Lt. Col. Joe Hayslett, 36th MRS commander. "When that's done, we have to be resupplied or come home unless we can replenish in-country." 

Another unique capability the assessment team has at its disposal is the ability to be air-dropped into the affected region if the need arises. 

"The situation could happen if the helicopters didn't have the range to get there or if there's no place to land an aircraft or for vehicles to access the region," said Lt. Col. Troy Roberts, 736th SFS commander. "Only two CRGs in the Air Force have this capability - ours and the 86th CRG in Europe." 

Once the assessment is completed, the units decide what may or may not be needed to open up the airfield. If unable to open an airfield of their own or if the region does not allow U.S. military presence, the units may use an existing airfield, typically belonging to a neighboring country. 

Senior Master Sgt. Gregory Stone, 36th MRS superintendent, cited the relief efforts in Burma as an example. Because our military was not allowed to conduct operations there, Team Andersen members based operations out of Utapao Air Base, Thailand, he said. 

In a given relief mission, the units can field a team as small as seven members and as large as 127 members. For more austere conditions and potentially unfriendly environments, the team has its own independent duty medical technicians to treat any ailments that may occur. 

The units are also prepared for an attack if conducting relief efforts in a hostile territory.
"If the threat were to grow while we're on the ground, every single CRG member knows how to fire an M4 [and] M9, and they have all their body armor, [so] they can become defenders," Colonel Roberts said. 

For almost all relief missions, the unit may work closely, not only with the host nation, but with other U.S. military services, as well. 

"We do the airlift piece - anything that revolves around the flightline and loading stuff onto the aircraft; the Marines [handle] the ground piece, and the Navy does the sea piece," said Capt. Vincent Gemmiti, 36th MRS director of operations. "I honestly cannot remember anything we have done that wasn't joint."