by Capt. Brandon Schrader
96th Airlift Squadron
7/21/2014 - DAKAR, Senegal – The 934th Airlift Wing seized upon a rare opportunity to deploy to Africa to take part in a state partnership program, June 14-27.
The Minneapolis-based Air Force Reserve unit deployed 15 Airmen and a C-130 to take part in exercises typically supported by Air National Guard units.
The 934th started to make an impact immediately upon arriving in the West African country.
The first week of the exercise the 934th was tasked to support African Partnership Flight by using the aircraft as a static training platform. African Partnership Flight is a program run by U.S. Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa to provide outreach and training to members of African air forces.
Classroom instruction included aeromedical evacuation, loadmaster skills, flight safety, mission planning, airfield security, and fixed/rotor-wing accident investigation. Members of the 96th Airlift, 934th Operations Support and 934th Maintenance squadrons supported African Partnership Flights training objectives by demonstrating, with the assistance of ANG advisors and French interpreters, winching, pallet on/off-load, and shoring procedures. The aircraft served as an aeromedical evacuation platform to practice loading and unloading patients, demonstrate in-flight patient care and the capabilities of the C-130 as a medical transport.
Senior Master Sgt. Dean Grothem, Senior Airmen Shawn Huus-McKevitt and Brian Beckman showed loadmaster students new methods and considerations for loading airplanes and helicopters. Beckman had a special connection with a Nigerian Air Force C-130 loadmaster student who was a classmate of his at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, during initial loadmaster training.
During the second week, 934th members supported a key scenario in the Western Accord exercise by validating an Economic Community Of Western African States objective by deploying and redeploying a multi-national African/US force to a forward deployment location.
After first arriving in Senegal, a few members of the group wanted to find a way to give something to the children. Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Rettman, reflected on his motivation to assist, “I think our first night here in Dakar really struck a nerve with us. We were not really prepared to see what we saw on our trips through the town from the air base to the hotel.”
Grothem and Rettman wanted to find a way to help. With the assistance of the US Embassy, they searched for various groups/orphanages/food shelters where they could provide a little assistance.
When they identified a cause and an organization to support, they sought the financial support of all willing members of the trip. All 15 members donated a single day’s per diem to an organization that was able to help. The organization provides food and shelter to abandoned youths by providing a family structure, a bed, three meals a day, and elementary through high school education.
Unit members raised $2,000. It was enough to provide food, shelter and education for 150 students for 12 days. “We were told by the staff that they will remember the day we came for years to come and so will I. I am very glad to be able to help those kids,” said Rettman.
These reservists returned home with a different impression of Africa. “We made a difference in a part of the world where they don’t value statistics or deadlines, but rather relationships and trust,” said Rettman.
With all the training that was accomplished, the most important objective was building relationships and gaining trust with airmen from West Africa, something most agree was far more important and more intangible than what could be measured on paper.
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