ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- Airmen here supported landing three United Airlines' aircraft that diverted to the base Aug. 15-16 due to low visibility caused by Tropical Storm Goni.
The storm, which later developed into a typhoon after passing over the region, affected Guam with strong winds and heavy rain Aug. 14-16.
With less than an hour notice, several base agencies supported United Airlines’ aircrews in landing the first aircraft late Saturday night. The other two flights landed Sunday morning.
"It's always great when we can lend a helping hand to our neighbors," said Col. Sam White, the 36th Operations Group commander. "It's been about 10 years since commercial aircraft have diverted to Andersen so we were happy to support."
The 36th Operations Support Squadron provided weather updates and coordinated parking and transportation with 734th Air Mobility Squadron crews.
"What was paramount was passenger safety," White said. "There's going to be inconveniences in the midst of a tropical storm that people will have to go through, but we do all of these things to make sure people, at the end of the day, are safe."
Due to the conditions of the storm, 36th OSS Weather Flight Airmen wanted to ensure wind speeds were stable enough for 734th AMS Airmen to use airstairs to unload more than 500 passengers from the aircraft.
To obtain more detailed wind readings for reassurance, Staff Sgt. Maximilian Contreras, a 36th OSS Weather Flight weather forecaster, suggested reporting live winds beside the aircraft with a handheld anemometer. After receiving approval from leadership, Contreras put on a poncho and rushed across the tarmac to take the readings declaring it safe enough to unload the passengers.
"After all the passengers were safely aboard the buses, I got on board with the incredible 734th AMS crew that operated the stairs and the flight crews from the United jets," Contreras said. "I couldn't help but notice about five different families with small children and I knew that we had truly done something special that day. I was so excited; that was one of my best days in the Air Force career so far. It was a direct application of everything my job involves and we helped so many people that day."
Teams with the 36th Security Forces Squadron assisted the 36th Logistics Readiness Squadron in transferring the travelers to the Andersen Passenger Terminal where they waited until United Airlines transported them via buses to the Guam International Airport to process through customs and immigration.
On Aug. 16, crews from the 36th LRS Fuels Distribution Flight fueled the aircraft for their return to the local airport.
"As safety is our No. 1 priority, we value our military partners at Andersen Air Force Base," said Sam Shinohara, the United Airlines’ managing director of operations on Guam. "We thank the 36th Wing and 734th AMS for the professional support and assistance they provided over the weekend as we focused on taking care of our customers and ensuring a safe operation."