Member of Lithuanian forces assisted in delivering humanitarian aid to Haiti

Member of Lithuanian forces assisted in delivering humanitarian aid to Haiti

Loadmaster Sgt. Mindaugas Šalkauskas (Lithuanian Armed Forces) assisted providing humanitarian aid to earthquake devastated Haiti. On February 2 Sgt. M. Šalkauskas and crew of large military cargo plane „C-17 Globemaster III" delivered a load of assistance for disaster victims and for installing a camp for aid workers at the airport of Port-au-Prince.


Crew of flight was made of Norwegian, Dutch, Swedish, US, Lithuanian, and Romanian members serving in Papa Airbase (Hungary), permanent dislocation of military transport aircrafts - NATO's Heavy Airlift Wing. The crew flew under lead of HAW Commander Col. John Zazworsky (US Armed Forces).


Several states contributed to the humanitarian mission: Sweden, Estonia, Finland, Bulgaria. According to M. Šalkauskas, the task took four days. „With supplies from Bulgaria we left Papa Airbase for Sweden where we added Swedish, Estonian and Finish donation. The supplies were mainly camping equipment, survival kits, warm wraps, sleeping-bags, and similar," told M. Šalkauskas.


C-17 took off from Sweden, landed in the US Air Base in the Azores (Portugal) for the night and continued to the destination the following day. „On February 2 we landed in Haiti, Port-au-Prince Airport, or former area of the airport, to be precise. We saw ruins, crowds of people and deep deprivation as we flew over Haiti", told M. Šalkauskas.


Soon after unloading in Port-au-Prince the crew took off for Puerto Rico and back to Papa Airbase from there.


Sgt. M. Šalkauskas has been serving as loadmaster in Papa Air Base (Hungary), were HAW „C-17 Globemaster III" are deployed, since the beginning of 2010. Duties of loadmaster include those of technician and loading and maintaining communication. „Assistance flight to Haiti is my fourth task in flight in Papa Air Base. I have also been sent to Afghanistan, USA and Romania several times", - said Sgt. M. Šalkauskas.


Sgt. M. Šalkauskas was transferred from Lithuanian Air Forces Airbase to Papa Air Base after finishing around four-month long Loadmaster Course in USA.


Sgt. Mindaugas Šalkauskas is the first member of the Lithuanian Armed Forces trained to participate in NATO Strategic Airlift Capability programme as representative of Lithuania.


Multilateral agreement on formation of Strategic Airlift Capability (i.e. long distance cargo transportation capabilities) by jointly procuring three „C-17 Globemaster III" aircrafts was endorsed by ten members of NATO - Bulgaria, Estonia, USA, Poland, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Slovenia, Hungary - and two NATO partners - Finland and Sweden. The agreement that came into force in October 2008 foresees employment of the aircrafts for wide spectrum of the EU and NATO-led multinational operations - military, humanitarian, and others. International crews include representatives from 12 countries. The first of the three „C-17 Globemaster III" was deployed at Papa Airbase in June 2009, all the three of the three aircrafts were prepared in November.


„C-17 Globemaster III" is capable of deploying big numbers of troops (up to 150) at large distances without landing as well as flying with large loads onboard (maximum weight 78 tonnes).


As a participant of C-17 programme Lithuania both acquired 45 flight hours per year for airlift into mission regions and contributed to generation of lacking joint airlift capabilities for NATO.


NATO Multinational Strategic Airlift Capability was employed for the third time to deliver humanitarian assistance to Haiti on February 2. C-17 conducted first flight on January 18, and the second - January 27.

Pictures by Sgt. M. Šalkauskas


Picture from MoND archive - Sgt. M. Šalkauskas during training in USA.