A small group of U.S. airmen served as goodwill ambassadors earlier this week
while delivering medical supplies and personnel to quake stricken Iran.
The Air Force delivered more than 350,000 pounds of supplies and a small team
of American civilian doctors to the country that has lost tens of thousands of
people to a devastating earthquake Dec. 26 that centered near the ancient city
“It was a very good mission for us,” said Col. Bret Klassen, commander of the
mission and the first American off the plane. Dozens of Air Force personnel
assigned to the region participated in the mission, which involved 12 flights
into an airport in Kerman, about 75 miles northwest of Bam.
Crews from the Illinois Air National Guard piloted their C-130 aircraft,
currently based in Kuwait, in and out of the country. Klassen said ongoing
missions in Operation Iraqi Freedom weren’t affected.
“Some of our troops just had very long days,” he said.
Klassen, serving a year in the region as director of a logistics readiness
center, and the first crew delivered about 20,000 pounds of relief supplies
late Saturday night.
Part of the initial mission was the assessment of the local airport.
“We looked at [using] some C-5s, but the airfield we were at was probably not
going to be able to handle them, especially with the heavy use by aircraft from
other nations who were there,” he said.
So most missions were accomplished with the help of the smaller C-130s. Two
C-17s also made trips.
Klassen returned on a follow-flight Sunday and stayed overnight with three
other team members. Two of those airmen, Master Sgt. John Brook and 1st Lt.
Nicholas J. Sabula, are based in Europe and serving four-month rotations in the
area. Heading into Iran — a country the United States has had little dealings
with in decades, and still labels a sponsor of terrorism — was not high on
“It was strange and I was a little nervous on the way over there,” said
Brook, a member of the 48th Communications Squadron at RAF Lakenheath in the
But the Iranian reception quickly changed that.
“It was apparent that they were more than happy to see us,” he said.
In fact, Brook said he was asked to sign autographs several times and the
group was put up overnight at a local four-star hotel.
He said he’ll have a few stories to share with his wife, Janice, and two
children when he returns to Europe.
Sabula, a public affairs officer at Aviano Air Base, Italy, was along to help
facilitate stories with members of the Iranian and international media on hand.
He said he talked to more than 200 people, and the reception was universally
“I didn’t know what to expect, honestly,” he said. “It was quite surprising.”
The airmen got the opportunity to meet and work with members of the Iranian
military. Such contacts have been virtually nonexistent since the
U.S.-supported Shah of Iran was overthrown in 1979.
Klassen said Wednesday that no American military personnel were currently in
the country and the mission may be over. But he said crews are ready to go
again if they’re needed.
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