36th CRG assists in typhoon recovery
SAIPAN INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, Saipan -- Six Airmen from the 36th Contingency Response Group (CRG) stationed at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam are assisting relief efforts in Saipan following Typhoon Soudelor.
The aerial port team flew aboard a helicopter to the island on Aug. 9 and has been unloading Federal Emergency Management Agency-contracted cargo planes each day since.
"It's humbling that I can come back here and help," said Senior Airman Louie Lacsina, an active duty Airman and Saipan-native.
Lacsina, who grew up in the villages of San Antonio and Chalan Kiya, has been moved by the devastation left behind by Soudelor. Hundreds of island residents, including several friends, lost their homes.
"When typhoons hit when I was young, it was a pretty exciting and scary time," he said. "As an adult, I see how painful they can be for a small island like Saipan."
Lacsina is one of several Air Transportation Specialists or "port dogs" who belong to the CRG. These Airmen along with security forces, anti-terrorism personnel and medics make up a team that is tailored for disaster relief. They can go anywhere in the world, survey an airfield and establish a base of operations.
In November of 2013 they deployed to the Philippines for typhoon relief efforts and in April of 2015, to Nepal for earthquake recovery. The 36th CRG unloaded 80 aircraft in the Philippines and more than 200 in Nepal.
Lacsina's skills driving a 10-K All-terrain forklift were on display on the western side of the runway at Saipan International Airport on Wednesday. In tandem with Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Ports Authority and FEMA personnel, the team unloaded a cargo plane that arrived from Manila. In 1 hour and 6 minutes, they moved 45 pallets onto the tarmac for a Customs inspection and then onto flatbed trucks for transport to a central distribution site.
As a result, 53,000 pounds of water, tents and cots were on their way to the people of Saipan.
Said Lacsina: "They always say, 'your home is where your heart is.'"