Page Two

Lt. Col Brett J. Nelson, Commander of the 23d Special Tactics Squadron, 720th Special Tactics Group, Hurlburt Field,

On Thursday, Jan. 14 at 3 p.m. ET we will interview U.S. Air Force Maj. Jason Daniels, director of operations for the 720th Operations Support Squadron and Lt. Col. Brett J. Nelson, Commander of the 23d Special Tactics Squadron (23 STS), 720th Special Tactics Group (720 STG), Hurlburt Field, Fla.

Maj. Daniels, an Air Force combat controller, is part of the team that is opening Port au Prince airport, the only airstrip in Haiti, after its tower collapsed. Lt. Col. Nelson and Maj. Daniels will discuss special tactics to support humanitarian operations and the training that it takes to conduct such operations.

They will also explain the process for assessing conditions on airfields, the requirements for making airdrops, conducting para-rescue missions and working in concert with interagency partners.

    Click Here to listen to the interview...
Special Thanks to Wayne Norrad and the CCA

Maj. Jason Daniels, director of operations for the 720th Operations Support Squadron, Hurlburt Field

             Rescue Ops in Haiti: ‘The First 72 Hours Are Critical’

When a devastating earthquake struck Haiti on Tuesday, it knocked out the control tower at Port-au-Prince airport. A team of Air Force special operators has now reopened the airport — and is working to keep things running so that more relief can arrive.

The 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, 720th Special Tactics Group, is overseeing air traffic control at Port-au-Prince airport. Lt. Col. Brett Nelson, commander of the squadron, told reporters in a roundtable this afternoon that air operations were continuing, although they had experienced a “significant slowdown” because of a lack of ground support equipment.

Critically, the airfield has only two fuel trucks and two towbars for all the planes coming into Port-au-Prince. “When an aircraft lands and requires fuel or has to be moved around on the airfield by towing, it significantly delays us processing that aircraft and getting it back out,” Nelson said.

According to Nelson, the airport would be able to continue operations at night. “Airfield lighting is operational,” he said. “We have the personnel capability and we have portable light systems … In the event the lighting goes out we can turn on within 30 minutes and continue operations as normal.”

Air Force special operators have thus far rescued seven people from collapsed buildings. “The first 72 hours are critical,” said Maj. Jason Daniels, the director of operations for the 720th Operations Support Squadron.

Other military assets are on their way, including a contingency response group from Air Mobility Command. Above, sailors of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 7 prepare to for departure to aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, currently en route to Haiti.

WASHINGTON, Jan. 14, 2010 – U.S. Air Force special operations forces in Haiti have rescued seven survivors of the massive Jan. 12 earthquake that continues to wreak havoc on the country in its wake, according to Air Force officials.

Joe Edwards; special SgtMacsBar CCT Corespondent

News of the rescues represents a small victory in the face of what some have described as one of the greatest humanitarian emergencies in the history of the Americas.

Air Force Special Operations Forces have been manning the airport in the capital of Port-au-Prince since about 8 p.m. yesterday, conducting airfield operations in addition to recovery and rescue efforts, said Air Force Lt. Col. Brett J. Nelson.

“Within hours of our arrival last evening, we established airfield control and have maintained that control conducting 24-hour operations at Port-au-Prince airport,” Nelson, the commander of the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, 720th Special Tactics Group, said during a conference call with reporters today.

Air Force personnel have been engaged in operations to rescue potential survivors from collapsed buildings, he said. The colonel added that a number of Americans have been evacuated via the airport, but declined to provide an exact figure.

Nelson corrected media reports that said airport operations grinded to a halt after being saturated with aircraft. He acknowledged that operations at the airport have slowed down under the stress, with 44 aircraft crowding the space at one point today, but maintained that operations are ongoing.

Nelson also clarified that the airfield has power and is able to sufficiently light the premises to conduct night air operations.

Flanked by his national security team today, President Barack Obama elevated the humanitarian response in Haiti to the top of his priority list, enlisting the aid of government agencies and imploring Americans to extend compassion to those in need.

“I've made it clear to each of these [U.S. government] leaders that Haiti must be a top priority for their departments and agencies right now. This is one of those moments that calls out for American leadership,” Obama said in remarks at the White House.

Special Ops C-130s, Teams Provide Disaster Relief

American Forces Press Service, and Joe Edwards; special SgtMacsBar CCT Corespondent

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla., Jan. 14, 2010 - Airmen and C-130s from the Air Force Special Operations Command are continuing to provide disaster relief to the people of Haiti.

MC-130H Combat Talons and a C-130E Hercules from the 1st Special Operations Wing here landed in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, overnight and already have left the area for additional support taskings. The wing will continue to support requirements, as additional aircraft such as MC-130P Combat Shadows are en route carrying people and equipment.

In addition, two MC-130W Combat Spears from the 27th Special Operations Wing at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., are positioned here for additional support requirements. The aircraft are transporting equipment such as generators, vehicles, fuel, food and water, and communications packages, as well as specialty teams including special operations medical units and special tactics teams.

Chaos at Haiti airport calmed by Air Force, from Mike Leonard

Washington (CNN) -- Haiti's Port-au-Prince airport, now critical for the quick delivery of supplies and aid, was an uncontrolled "mess" when the Air Force arrived Wednesday night to rehabilitate the facility, according to the commander of one of the Air Force's elite special operations units send to Haiti.

One of the biggest problems early on was that for more than a day after the earthquake, the airport was in disarray, Lt. Col. Brett Nelson said. Planes landed and parked just about anywhere.

"When we initially established airfield control last night, that followed 24 hours of uncontrolled activity," Nelson said.

The situation forced delays for arriving aircraft Thursday. At one point, Nelson said, there were 44 planes parked at the airport, but only two fuel trucks to refuel the planes and two tow carts for moving the planes.

One very large plane was on the tarmac in need of more fuel and it took more than six hours to get that plane out of the way.

The airport, used to handling about 25 flights daily, had 74 flights on Wednesday and 55 flights by midafternoon on Thursday, CNN's Chris Lawrence reported from the airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration imposed a "ground stop" for most of Thursday for aid aircraft heading to Haiti, because the crowding preventing new planes from arriving until existing planes departed.

The agency later canceled the stop, opening the gates for U.S. planes bound for Haiti with relief workers and supplies. But the FAA cautioned that some planes were kept flying in holding patterns off Haiti "in excess of three hours," before they were cleared to land. The FAA said holding delays could continue for the next several days.

"Excessive holding and diversions [to other airports] are a strong possibility," the FAA said.

Because of the difficulty in refueling planes, Nelson said the Air Force is trying to make sure that any planes flying into Port-au-Prince have adequate fuel to fly out.

The Air Force's 23rd Special Tactics Squadron is part of the Air Force equivalent of the Navy SEALS or the Army's Delta Force.

Nelson said the squadron flew into Haiti Wednesday night from its headquarters at Hurlburt Field, Florida. The squadron's main mission was to re-establish an air traffic control system at Haiti's biggest airport.

The air traffic control team with his unit walked off the plane with radios on their back and within minutes were talking to in-bound planes that were trying to land with humanitarian aid, Nelson said.

The airmen were equipped to provide security for the airport, but Nelson said he knew of "no issues of violence or crime at the airport" as of Thursday afternoon.

The Air Force is examining the possibility of using the nation's other major airport, at Cap Haitien on Haiti's north coast. But that airport's runway is half as long as the runway at Port-au-Prince and it's unclear if using it would be be of much help immediately to the earthquake victims in Port-au-Prince.

Airport access is desperately needed because the main port is severely damaged, said Gen. Douglas Fraser, the head of the U.S. Southern Command, which is overseeing operations in Haiti.

"The airfield provides capacity for immediate relief, lifesaving, life-sustaining capability, but as we look at recovery as we look at down the road, the real number and mass of supplies comes from the maritime dimension, and it comes through the ports, over the shore," Fraser said at a press conference in Florida on Thursday.

"We're looking at the other ports within Haiti, we're looking at ports in the Dominican Republic. We're looking at every option we have to figure out how to get supplies in every -- in whatever manner is required."

In the short term, the U.S. military is bringing in ships equipped with helicopters to fly supplies and equipment to land. The USS Carl Vinson was scheduled to arrive Friday with 19 helicopters and 30 pallets of relief supplies.

Early next week, the USS Bataan and support ships are scheduled to arrive carrying 2,200 Marines and heavy equipment.

AF Restores Order to Haiti Skies, Joe Edwards; special SgtMacsBar CCT Corespondent

Air Force operational support and special tactics Airmen restored security to Haiti’s airport and order to the skies over it Thursday, the day after they flew into the earthquake-devastated country from Hurlburt Field, Fla.

Airmen of the 720th Operations Support Squadron and 23rd Special Tactics Squadron were on the ground by about 8 p.m. Wednesday. As an Air Force Security Forces element established a perimeter guard around the Port-au-Prince airport, the two squadrons began setting up to restore air traffic control capabilities.

"What I can tell you is that my men got on that airplane [at Hurlburt] with radios on their backs and walked off that airplane [in Haiti] ready to start talking to airplanes," Lt. Col Brett J. Nelson, commander of the 23d STS, told media during a blogger's roundtable from the Pentagon on Thursday. "The first priority we had when we got on the ground was to assess the airfield and make sure it was safe for non-military aircraft landing."

 That typically takes about a half hour, he said, but may have take a bit longer in this instance because it was nighttime and the area had to be closely inspected.
"But once that was done, we were able to establish airhead operations immediately," he said.

The units also arrived with humanitarian aid and Air Force pararescuemen and equipment for rescue, said Maj. Jason Daniels, director f operations for the 720th OSS.
While Air Force officials were not able to estimate exactly how many planes they processed in their first day of operating the airfield, Nelson said that they had 44 aircraft on the ground at one point.

Nelson denied Thursday afternoon media reports that the airfield had to be shut down because it could no longer handle incoming aircraft.

The Associated Press and other outlets reported that the Federal Aviation Administration halted all civilian flights to Haiti for nearly eight hours as some aircraft circled the airport awaiting permission to land. Nelson said the airfield was never shut down, but that incoming flights were prioritized to get in the most critical and also give ground crews a chance to handle the planes already there.
He said many planes on the ground had to be moved using tow vehicles and tow-bars, but that the airport only has two of each.
Nelson told that the Air Force would be flying in additional tows and tow-bars.


Colonel Describes Orderly Traffic at Haiti Airport

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service, sent by; Joe Edwards; special SgtMacsBar CCT Corespondent 

WASHINGTON, Jan. 17, 2010 - Six hundred flights carrying humanitarian personnel, relief provisions and evacuees have transited through the Port-au-Prince, Haiti, airport since the U.S. Air Force began operating there a day after a magnitude 7 earthquake rocked Haiti Jan. 12.

Air Force Col. Buck Elton, in an operational update with reporters today, added that no major security incidents have occurred at the airport since the Air Force personnel began overseeing the high volume of traffic.

"Since then, we've controlled approximately 600 takeoffs and landings from this 10,000-foot strip that normally operates three aircraft out of it on a daily basis," said Elton, commander of the U.S. forces directing flights at Haiti's airport.

"Everything has been very orderly," he added. "The Haitian police force is helping out tremendously with crowd control and with traffic control around the airfield, and we've had no major incidents."

In an update with Tim Callaghan of the U.S. Agency for International Development's foreign disaster assistance office, Elton said 24 patients have been brought to the airfield for treatment, including 16 Americans with what Elton described as "crush injuries."

While the rush of supplies and aid from other countries initially overwhelmed the airport's limited capacity, Elton said, the capacity for processing arriving and departing flights is improving steadily. He noted that about 60 percent of the flights coming in are civilian and 40 percent are military.

Haiti has been the focus of an expansive relief effort in the wake of what one official has called one of the greatest humanitarian emergencies in the history of the Americas. Original estimates by the Red Cross were that upwards of 50,000 people were killed in the quake, but other reports elevate the figure to between 100,000 to 200,000.

For its part, the Defense Department has authorized up to $20 million in immediate aid to Haiti, and the nation's top military officer estimated that up to 10,000 U.S. troops would be in Haiti by tomorrow.

In his update, Elton underscored the speed with which Air Force personnel began operations after landing at the badly damaged airport around 7 p.m. on Jan. 13.

"Within 28 minutes of landing our first aircraft, we had special tactics combat control teams controlling the airspace around the airfield, and sequencing in the arriving aircraft that night," he said.

U.S. Team Directs Traffic in Crowded Skies

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti—A Federal Express 727 and a giant U.S. Air Force cargo jet from Washington state were at an impasse on the taxiway, one trying to reach a parking spot while the other headed for the runway. U.S. Navy and Canadian rescue helicopters swarmed overhead. A Bolivian DC-10 had just landed, as had former President Bill Clinton in a red-white-and-blue Boeing 757.

But U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Don Travo's immediate problem on Monday afternoon was finding a place for a C-130 on final approach. "I can't get him in," Sgt. Travo shouted, before ordering the plane to swerve from its flight path and turn tight circles over Port-au-Prince until told otherwise.

Less than a week after a powerful earthquake shattered the Haitian capital, Toussaint Louverture International Airport—the port of entry for millions of pounds in emergency aid—is chaotic but functioning. What was a dangerous aviation free-for-all in the disaster's immediate aftermath, with aid planes jostling for space on the single runway, is now being tamed by a small team of Air Force special-operations troops who control air traffic from a folding table set up on a patch of dirt beside the runway.

"We're trying to make order out of chaos," said Chief Master Sgt. Tyler Foster.

The airmen have guided more than 819 planes in as of Monday morning, including 171 on Sunday night. On Monday, a cargo plane, from Charleston, S.C., arrived with 39,472 bottles of water and 31,256 packaged meals.

The U.S. government has ordered that all arriving planes be issued landing slots before take-off, and that all aircraft arrive with enough fuel to circle for 90 minutes, land, depart and reach their next destination. "All operators are advised that fuel and other ground-support services may be unavailable," the order read.

Elsewhere at the airport, Haitian aviation officials, assisted by American and Canadian traffic controllers, now contact planes 30 or 40 miles out, keeping order as the aircraft head toward Port-au-Prince. When they are within 10 or 20 miles, the Air Force controllers take over to guide the aircraft onto the lone runway.

The airmen have been here since the evening after the earthquake, when they found that aid planes were landing randomly. They brought enough landing lights for the 10,000-foot runway, although the existing lights were still functioning. The control tower, however, was too badly damaged to be used. So the airmen put their table out next to the runway and, within 20 minutes of arriving, they began contacting airplanes with the message, "This is Port-au-Prince tower." They have been there since, working and sleeping in 12-hour shifts.

They landed about 50 planes that first night, and guided 35 or 40 to take off. There were only 10 parking spots by the main terminal, so aircraft stacked up quickly, blocking each other's movement in a tangle. Small planes are sent to park on grassy fields. Helicopters are restricted to one side of the runway so that they don't interfere with arriving jets.

At times, one airmen jumps on a motorcycle to escort arriving airplanes to the appropriate parking spots.

Click Picture to Enlarge; Special Thanks to Wayne Norrad

Still, there are moments when chaos overwhelms the control. When Mr. Clinton's plane arrived, it had to wait for a C-130 to back out of its parking position. "Come on—move," Tech. Sgt. Joe Hepler said, pounding his head with his hand.

During the early days, incoming pilots often demanded clearance to land, arguing that their cargo was the most vital. "Everybody seemed to be a priority," said Staff Sgt. Chad Rosendale.

To bring some order, there is now a written priority list, issued by the U.S. embassy on behalf of the Haitian government, which gives deliveries of water and food precedence over other supplies. 

Technically, the runway isn't wide enough for the largest cargo planes, but in recent days, the airmen have accommodated huge Russian-built jets. "We've gone beyond what is allowed," Sgt. Rosendale said.

Federal Aviation Administration officials arrived Monday and conducted an assessment of runway conditions in anticipation of returning air-traffic control to civilian hands. The FAA is examining the possibility of bringing in a mobile control tower to replace the folding table, according to the Air Force.

FAA officials on the ground declined to comment.

U.S. Military Begins Air Drops in Haiti

With ground transportation in Haiti severely limited following last week's massive earthquake, the U.S. military begun a series of air drops Monday afternoon to deliver aid supplies to the Haitian people.

CBS News has learned that the Air Force is flying C-17 transport planes out of Pope Air Force Base in Fayetteville, N.C. Each plane will deliver 40 aid bundles per trip and the military is planning to deliver 600 bundles over three days. The military has secured three drop zones where the aircraft can unload from an altitude of about 1,000 feet.

A plane already in the air is set to deliver 14,000 MREs - the calorie-dense "meals ready to eat" used by the military in combat zones - and 14,000 quarts of water.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told Reuters Friday that air drops in the immediate aftermath of the quake would have been "a formula for contributing to chaos rather than preventing it."

"Without having any structure on the ground, in terms of distribution, that an air drop is simply going to lead to riots as people go after that stuff," he said.

Sixteen ships and 48 helicopters are offshore flying in water and taking out the injured, but the help the U.S. promised has not arrived as quickly as planned, reports CBS News correspondent David Marin. The Pentagon said it would have 10,000 men and women either ashore or afloat by Monday. The actual number is less than 7,000. Delays at the airport have put the 82nd Airborne two days behind schedule, and a U.S. officer said Haitian air traffic controllers were simply unable to handle all the incoming flights.

Governments and humanitarian groups have struggled to get aid to the neediest Haitians in the week since the earthquake.

Some incidents of violence in Haiti have hindered rescue workers trying to help earthquake victims, a top official leading the U.S. government's relief efforts said Sunday.

Providing humanitarian aid requires a safe and secure environment, said Lt. Gen. Ken Keen of the U.S. Southern Command. While streets have been largely calm, he said, violence has been increasing.

A leading aid group complained of skewed priorities and a supply bottleneck at the U.S.-controlled airport. The general in charge said the U.S. military was "working aggressively" to speed up deliveries.

Air Force brings order to chaotic air traffic, sent by Wayne Norrad

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — When Air Force special operations controllers stepped off a transport plane Wednesday night at Haiti’s main airport, they found chaos.

One day after the earthquake struck, relief planes were coming in from all directions, landing on a first-come-first-served basis and getting too close to one another on the ground. Nobody was coordinating. Aid wasn’t moving.

The air-traffic control tower was damaged and unsafe. So Tech. Sgt. Chris Grove, whose expertise extends to calling in airstrikes from the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, brought his squad to a spot near the runway and set up what would become an air-traffic control center. They went to talk to pilots on the ground.

“We told them, hey, we’re Air Force combat controllers. We’re taking over the airfield,” Grove said. From a dirt patch, two young American sergeants began directing air traffic for one of the largest humanitarian operations in history.

It was the beginning of an operation that, by Sunday, had unclogged one bottleneck preventing aid from reaching Haiti’s desperate population. It was no magic bullet — relief officials searched for helicopter landing zones and overland routes through which to bring in aid.

By Sunday, the Air Force had landed some 300 planes, most of them laden with relief supplies. Four large forklifts unloaded the pallets as they landed and the aid was shipped out on trucks and helicopters. Incoming planes were required to file flight plans with landing times to ensure an orderly flow. The Haitian government has signed an agreement granting the U.S. formal control of the airport.

“This is a herculean effort out here,” said Col. Ben McMullen, who like virtually all American troops on the ground here is working 16 hours a day, sleeping on a cot and eating meals out of a plastic pouch. “It feels great; it really does. That’s what we’re here for, is to land airplanes.”

More than 2,000 U.S. citizens have been evacuated, leaving “on every available aircraft,” Air Force Col. Buck Elton said Sunday.

It didn’t always go smoothly. With only one forklift at first, the Air Force couldn’t quickly unload the planes coming in Thursday and Friday, McMullen said. Because of that, and because the airport lacked ground refueling, many planes were turned away. Some nations and aid groups did not initially cooperate with the U.S. military, McMullen said.

The Geneva-based aid group Doctors Without Borders said the bottleneck at the airport was “a major difficulty.” It said a flight carrying its own inflatable hospital was denied landing clearance and was being trucked overland from Santo Domingo, delaying its arrival by 24 hours.

“I know we got some bad publicity about turning some away, but there was nothing we could do,” Grove said, standing on the airfield between landings. “Our job is to run a safe and effective air-traffic control operation.”

On Sunday, all manner of aircraft, including a Chinese 747 jumbo jet, were lined up along the airfield. Forklifts were unloading the pallets into convoys of trucks. The drone of jet engines and helicopter rotors was constant.

When they first arrived, the Air Force special operators set up a headquarters in a rat-infested, trash-strewn hangar. Now cleaned up, that has become the central military headquarters for the relief effort. It’s where Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met Haitian President René Préval on Saturday.