09/05/05 — Seymour Airmen "supporting the supporters'

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Seymour Airmen "supporting the supporters'

By Turner Walston
Published in News on September 5, 2005 1:45 PM

Approximately 125 airmen from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base deployed to New Orleans this weekend to support cleanup and rescue from Hurricane Katrina.

"We're pretty much supporting the supporters," said Master Sgt. Eric Johnson, 4th Fighter Wing combat chief. Johnson said Seymour Johnson sent a wide range of occupations, including civil engineers, military police officers, logistics readiness officers, communications specialists, and air traffic controllers.

The deploying men and women are combining with airmen from Shaw and Moody Air Force bases to make up a force of approximately 800 Airmen. The group, scheduled to be in the area for 45 to 60 days, will be called the 4th Air Expeditionary Group. Col. Lennie Coleman 4th Mission Support Commander, will command the 4th AEG.

Tech Sgt. Denise Spaulding prepared to deploy Sunday afternoon.

"I'm excited," she said. "You watch all this stuff on the news, and you think 'God, I wish I could do something,' and here I am."

Spaulding works as a paralegal at Seymour Johnson, and wasn't quite sure what she'd be doing in New Orleans. But she was eager to help in any way.

"This, to me, is just something you do," she said.

Spaulding said it was a unique situation, to be deploying to a location and helping those in need within the United States.

"It's a different set of things running through your head," she said.

The Air Force members will set up a "tent city" to support approximately 4,500 Army troops and Marines.

Staff Sgt. Angela Shepherd of said the 4th AEG would expand airfield operations at the airport to support 6 cargo planes, enabling faster delivery of food and supplies to those in need.

"We're basically building a task force," said Capt. Derrick Floyd, military personnel flight commander.

Floyd said the tent city would house military members, while any hard structures would be for citizens displaced by the hurricane.

Lt. Col. Francesca Vasta-Falldorf, aeromedical dental squadron commander, said there were medical issues unique to this situation.

"Whenever we deploy people, we want to make sure they're protected and prepared," she said. Vasta-Falldorf said stagnant water provided a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

She said immunizations and screenings were necessary for the deploying airmen. "We don't want them to be patients. We want them to help others."