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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, March 14, 2010

Hawaii Coast Guard lends hand in Haiti

 •  Vets struggle to readjust

By Angela Henderson
U.S. Coast Guard

Fourteen Coast Guard aircrew members from Air Station Barbers Point were among more than 1,000 Coast Guard personnel who traveled to Haiti to participate in relief efforts following the severe Jan. 12 earthquake.

The Hawai'i-based aircrews flew an HC-130 Hercules aircraft more than 14 hours to assist in air surveillance assessments, and in transporting medical and security personnel, relief supplies and evacuees.

In all, the Coast Guard sent 28 aircraft and nine cutters to aid the multi-agency effort.

"I'm just grateful that we were able to extend a helping hand in the Haiti relief efforts," said Lt. Andrew Paszkiewicz, a Hawai'i-based Hercules pilot. "Just four months ago we helped in the tsunami response efforts in American Sāmoa; that's why I joined the Coast Guard to have the chance to help those in need and make a difference."

With only three Hercules and four HH-65 Dolphin helicopters at Air Station Barbers Point, aircrews stood ready to help in any mission that came their way.

"It's amazing that our air crews serve in such far-flung places and that they were literally on opposite sides of the earth on the same day," said Capt. Anthony Vogt, the air station's commanding officer, "and yet we were still ready to assist the residents of Hawai'i in the event of an emergency here at home in the Islands."

Days after Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced that the Department of State was establishing a joint task force with the Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services to streamline the process of adoptions, and to ensure that these families are united as quickly as possible, the air station crew flew 20 Haitian orphans to Homestead, Fla.

"If someone were to ask me about the earthquake that shook Haiti, the image that comes to mind are the orphans we flew back to south Florida," Paszkiewicz said. "They were so tiny, so vulnerable, so quiet. Many were in wheelchairs or had limbs that had been crushed."

The two crews completed 29 missions to and from Haiti and transported more than 120 relief personnel, 20 orphans and evacuated more than 200 injured from Port-au-Prince, and flew about 100 hours to support relief efforts.

"Because of the type of aircraft we fly, the missions we perform rarely allow us to be in physical contact with those we help," Paszkiewicz said. "Seeing and hearing the appreciation in the people we helped made all the endless flight hours and no sleep more than worth it."