MacDill's Ravens support tsunami effort
by 1st Lt. Erin Dorrance
After finishing up a 12-hour shift for the sixth consecutive day, Senior Airman Brent Thompson received a phone call that ended up in his deployment to Thailand three hours later.
Airman Thompson, along with staff sergeants Michael Keltz and Candice Sutterfield, all members of the 6th Security Forces Squadron Phoenix Ravens, deployed Dec. 30 to Indonesia in support of the tsunami relief effort, which started shortly after the catastrophe struck Dec. 26, 2004.
The Phoenix Raven program was launched by Air Mobility Command to provide security for aircraft and crews. Since the Ravens were one of the first teams into the country, their mission in support of the tsunami relief included intelligence reports about physical security, weapons, entry control points, fencing vegetation, area lighting and several other interests. Guarding aircraft was an essential part of their mission, said Sergeant Keltz.
During the month and a half deployment, the MacDill's Ravens were stationed at Uttapao Naval Air Station, Thailand. Their numerous missions traveled to several countries hit by the devastating disaster to include Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Bangladesh, said Sergeant Keltz.
Sergeant Keltz and Airman Thompson were on the two-person Raven team that volunteered to be the first team to go out on a mission. They flew into some of the worst-hit areas and can easily recall the pictures in their minds.
"It looked like a huge wave crashed in and just took everything with it back to sea," said Airman Thompson. "You could see where the water came in and stopped, just like a line of destruction."
"On our first trip in was like a scene out of a movie," said Sergeant Keltz. "There were people lined up at fences desperately looking into an area where helicopters kept arriving with supplies. There was dirt flying everywhere and the people just kept staring in to see what the planes were bringing."
Sergeant Keltz has traveled to more than 65 countries and Airman Thompson has more than 30 countries under his belt as a Raven. Both say this mission was definitely different.
"It was a humanitarian mission in a non-hostile area," said Airman Thompson, who added that Ravens are trained to always be on guard, even if they are in a low or no threat area.
"The host nation people were so nice to us and just really glad we were there to help," said Sergeant Keltz.
The three Ravens safely returned to MacDill Feb. 10.