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Arizonans play crucial role in bringing aid to Haiti

Lt. Meredith Doran peers at her computer monitor at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson and sees the pain of Haiti.

Looking at aerial photos taken by Air Force planes she had dispatched, Lt. Doran makes sure aid and supplies reach the earthquake-devastated Caribbean nation as quickly and as safely as possible.

Tucson and Port-au-Prince have little in common, yet the men and women of D-M are reaching across the 2,575 miles that separate these cities to help deliver aid to the Haitian capital.

As a member of the House Armed Services Committee and a representative of a district with a large military presence, I often hear from military commanders how every service member has an important role to play. This couldn’t be truer than during Operation Unified Response, the military designation for the relief efforts now under way in Haiti.

This rescue effort could not take place without the leadership and the skills of our airmen at D-M. While the world’s eyes are focused on the airport in Port-au-Prince, men and women from southeastern Arizona are controlling the skies above Haiti.

Air Forces Southern has been working around the clock planning and executing air operations since shortly after the earthquake destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure on Jan. 12. The 612th Air Operations Center at D-M has become a control room for all flights into Haiti.

Lt. Doran, whose family lives in Minneapolis, is a member of the 612th who is keeping an eye on the skies over Haiti. She receives requests from soldiers on the ground who receive pallets of food and supplies by parachute from Air Force C-17s.

Lt. Doran then dispatches aircraft to photograph the area. After she and others identify a drop zone, the order if given to the crew of the cargo plane.

On one recent day, a plane dropped 15,000 meals and 15,000 liters of water in a clear area identified by Lt. Doran.

I have been deeply moved by the dedication, concentration and commitment of the airmen assigned to this task.

The center in Tucson is handling command and control for more than 120 flights a day into an airport that handled an average of only 15 flights a day before the earthquake.

From this base in our backyard, airlift missions from the United States and across the world are coordinated, medical teams deployed, supplies routed to their destination and equipment delivered from across the U.S.

Please join me in thanking and congratulating the Airmen of Davis- Monthan Air Force Base. The contributions of these American heroes continue to be felt worldwide.

And today, the people of Haiti, and all of us in Tucson, are grateful for their continued service.

– Gabrielle Giffords is in her second term representing southeastern Arizona in the 8th Congressional District.

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