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Air Force Deploys Rapid-Response Team to Haiti Airport

A man salvages personal items from his home destroyed by Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, on Oct. 6, 2016. Authorities and aid workers fear it is the country's biggest disaster in years. Dieu Nalio Chery/AP
A man salvages personal items from his home destroyed by Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, on Oct. 6, 2016. Authorities and aid workers fear it is the country's biggest disaster in years. Dieu Nalio Chery/AP

The Air Force's 621st Contingency Response Wing on Thursday deployed a rapid response team to Haiti to provide humanitarian relief in the wake of Hurricane Matthew.

The 34-member team from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, and arrived in Port Au Prince International Airport. The country was battered by the storm, with more than 300,000 residents in shelters, according to the United Nations.

The unit specializes in quick mobilization and humanitarian relief efforts, according to the Air Force Expeditionary Center website.

"The 621st CRW is highly specialized in rapidly deploying personnel to quickly open airfields and establish, expand, sustain and coordinate air mobility operations alongside joint and intra-agency partners," Air Force spokeswoman Erika Yepsen said in an email.

Related story: Air Force Evacuates Some Bases Before Hurricane Matthew

The Air Force team will work with personnel from the U.S. Army's Rapid Port Opening Element and Defense Logistics Agency at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, "to form a joint assessment team that will survey initial needs and establish mobility capabilities at the Port Au Prince International Airport," she said.

Yepsen said Seymour-Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, and Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, have begun evacuating aircraft to Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana.

Seymour Johnson is moving 41 F-15E Strike Eagles from the 4th Fighter Wing and six KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft from the 916th Air Refueling Wing, according to a base release. It did not specify if personnel were also being evacuated, but said some airmen are being mobilized to assist with the aircraft relocation.

Shaw has entered HURCON III mode, according to its site, but did not provide information on how many of its aircraft or personnel would relocate. Shaw hosts the 20th Fighter Wing, an F-16 Fighting Falcon unit.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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Air Force Emergencies