Travis Air Force Base announced Wednesday afternoon that military personnel and aircraft are standing by to provide humanitarian aid in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Hurricane Maria, the strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in more than 80 years destroyed hundreds of homes, knocked out power across the entire island and turned some streets into raging rivers. The hurricane blew ashore in the morning near the southeast coastal town of Yabucoa as a Category 4 storm with winds of 155 mph. As people waited in shelters or took cover inside stairwells, bathrooms and closets, Maria brought down cell towers and power lines, snapped trees, tore off roofs and unloaded at least 20 inches (50 centimeters) of rain.
One joint task force port opening (JTF-PO) team and one disaster support aeromedical evacuation staging facility team are on standby to fly from Travis to the affected area, most likely San Juan, Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands. Additionally, multiple C-17 Globemaster III and C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft are on standby, and the 60th Aerial Port Squadron is planning and processing contingency and medical cargo to be pre-loaded onto waiting aircraft.
According to base personnel, a JTF-PO provides rapid port opening capabilities to facilitate crisis response in austere environments. Two contingency response elements from this group, made up of members from the 621st Contingency Response Squadron, are preparing to depart shortly to conduct a site survey of the existing airfield to assess ability to land large fixed wing aircraft. A CRE (Contingency Response Element) is made up of subject matter liaisons capable of assessing airfield capabilities to support aerial port operations, cargo movement, material handling equipment, communications support, air traffic control and runway structural evaluations to ensure safe conditions for aircraft and crews.
A DASF (Direct Air…