Face of Defense: Airlift Manager Delivers on Contingency Travel Plan

  • Published
  • By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Seth Bleuer, 194th Wing

Air Force Master Sgt. Michelle Kelly, an airlift manager with the Oregon Air National Guard’s 173rd Fighter Wing, served as the transportation planner for Tropic Care Maui County 2018, a joint training mission providing no-cost medical, dental, and vision services to people living on the Hawaiian Islands of Maui, Molokai and Lanai.

The training mission was held August 11-19.

Kelly has served in the Air National Guard for 18 years. She lives in Klamath Falls, Oregon, with her husband. She enjoys raising pigs and horseback riding.

Planning Transportation

For Tropic Care Maui County 2018, Kelly planned all of the transportation to three different islands for over 350 service members from several military service branches. Tropic Care Maui County 2018 covers six different sites on three separate islands that require transportation of personnel and supplies to and from the sites.

Just before the majority of service members were to travel to the islands for the start of the mission, Hurricane Hector was moving through the Pacific, with the possibility of impacting the Hawaiian Islands. Kelly had to coordinate a contingency plan for travel on the day before the main body of service members was to arrive.

“The hurricane created a lot of transportation challenges,” she said. “When you fly military aircraft you have a large amount of people coming in at the same time and same place, and you can concentrate your transportation to that one location. Due to the hurricane we had to switch to commercial air, which meant we had small groups coming in at different times, and we had to adapt our transportation plan to that which was a huge challenge, but it worked out.”

Transportation Challenge

The biggest challenge, Kelly said, was redirecting the flights to Maui.

“Originally, everyone was supposed to fly directly to their islands at Molokai and Lanai, but due to safety concerns from the hurricane the decision was made to fly everyone into Maui,” she said. “This meant we had to move over 40 personnel and an enormous amount of equipment across the island to a ferry to Lanai.”

Kelly added, “We pieced it together when we could, but the ferries kept getting canceled due to the weather. It was challenging, but we made it work. We ran into the same challenge trying to get everyone and their equipment out to Molokai with their flights. But the aircrew from the Montana Air National Guard flying the C-130 were absolutely amazing and made it happen.”

Hurricane Hector moved away from the islands. Tropic Care participants arrived in Maui on Aug. 9, and were able to travel to their final clinic sites to prepare to receive patients by August 10. Clinics were able to open on schedule on Aug. 11.

Tropic Care Maui County 2018 is a joint-service training mission led by the Air National Guard and supported by members of the Air Force, Army, Navy Reserve, and Marine Corps Reserve. Tropic Care provides medical troops and support personnel “hands-on” readiness training to prepare for future deployments while providing direct and lasting benefits to the people of Maui, Molokai, and Lanai.

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Kendell Nielsen, a bioenvironmental engineer technician assigned to the 173rd Medical Group, Oregon Air National Guard, stows away luggage onto a truck after arriving in Molokai, Hawaii, for Tropic Care Maui County 2018, Aug. 10, 2018. Tropic Care Maui County 2018, held August 11-19, provided training to medical service members and support personnel to prepare them for future deployments while providing direct and lasting benefits to the people of Maui, Molokai, and Lanai. Air National Guard photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Lonnie Wiram