The Mississippi Air National Guard was activated by U.S. Southern Command to provide lifesaving humanitarian assistance to victims of the Fuego volcano eruption in Guatemala.
A C-17 Globemaster III from the 172nd Airlift Wing in Jackson, Mississippi, transported six burn victims — four extremely critical and two critical — from Guatemala to Galveston, Texas, on Wednesday.
The victims, who are all children, will receive treatment at Shriners Hospital for Children for burns and other injuries sustained in the eruption.
“This ranks right up there with one of the most important missions I think that the 172nd does as far as humanitarian relief,” said Capt. David Hutchins, 183rd Airlift Squadron pilot. “Being able to use the aircraft that we have, and the AE Squadron that we have as well, to evacuate these people out in a timely manner and get them the help that they need.”
Pediatric intensive care and burn victim treatment specialists from San Antonio Military Medical Center at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, provided care to the patients en route.
“This is something we don’t always get to do, dealing with civilians, from babies up to teenagers,” said Maj. Jennifer Harless, 183rd Air Evacuation Squadron flight nurse. “Most of the time we deal more with the adults and trauma, so this is a little different for us, but not something we can’t handle because we do train for it.”
The Mississippi Air National Guard was notified of the mission in the wee hours of the morning and assembled a crew within two hours. The team worked for more than 24 hours straight to safely deliver the patients and their family members to the United States.
“It shows the length that the Air Force will go to save life, limb or eyesight, not just for their military members, but for the civilian members as well,” said Lt. Col. Teri Dawn Neely of the 183rd Air Evacuation Squadron. “They went to great lengths to go and to help save these children and bring them to higher echelons of care.”