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Delivering Clean Drinking Water to Americans In Need

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Samuel Swanson
  • 618 AOC

Under the direction of the 618th Air Operations Center, nearly 700,000 bottles of water were successfully delivered to Americans impacted by the severe winter storms that swept across the state of Texas, February 19-23, 2021.

Winter Storm Uri, the worst polar vortex to hit Texas since 1989, brought freezing temperatures and ice storms to communities across the Southwestern United States. As temperatures dropped, widespread power outages and frozen water pipes left countless residents without reliable heating or drinkable water. At the peak of the crisis, over 12 million Texans were under boil water notices, with local officials projecting that it would remain so for days, or even weeks.

Under the direction of U.S. Northern Command, the 618 AOC quickly mobilized C-17 and C-130 cargo aircraft to deliver pallets of bottled water to staging facilities located throughout Texas. On the ground, the Texas Division of Emergency Management and the Federal Emergency Management Agency worked hand-in-hand to transport the desperately needed aid to communities hardest hit by the storm. Airmen with the Texas Air National Guard were also quick to join the fight, flying aircraft into small, regional airports to ensure a non-stop flow of supplies to the region.

“Now that I’ve got my power back, I want to help others not as fortunate,” said Capt. Dave Ruthenbeck, a C-130H Hercules pilot who participated in the relief effort. “We’ve got about 35,000 pounds of water loaded here and are headed to Austin. We’ve been flying [bottled] water since Thursday (Feb. 18) and will continue until it’s all delivered.”

As personnel on the ground quickly offloaded pallets of drinking water, behind the scenes, the men and women of the 618 AOC were playing a critical role in helping manage the rapid transportation and distribution of supplies across the Lone Star state. Headquartered at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, the Department of Defense’s largest command and control hub was working around-the-clock, overseeing the flow of military aircraft flying in-and-out of the region. Home to over 900 personnel, the 618 AOC was responsible for planning the missions, identifying the available aircraft, overseeing their movement real-time, and evaluating all the logistical details that made each delivery possible. Through their efforts, clean drinking water was able to quickly make its way into the hands of local Texans impacted by Winter Storm Uri.

"In response to FEMA requests and under the purview of U.S. Northern Command, AMC Total Force Airmen have delivered nearly 700,000 bottles of water on 19 C-17 and C-130 missions over the past week," said General Jaqueline Van Ovost, Air Mobility Command commander. "AMC’s Airmen are proud and honored to deliver hope to those in need, at home or abroad."

Without the expert planning and movement oversight provided by the 618 AOC, the rapid distribution of supplies to Texans in need would have been severely limited, likely delaying the arrival of clean drinking water and prolonging the hardship experienced by local residents. Being able to facilitate the movement of mobility aircraft under one, single organization is an invaluable capability for the DoD when responding to humanitarian crises. Consolidating the command and control of aircraft within the AOC allows for a more coordinated and responsive mobility enterprise. Whether it be supporting communities here at home or responding to Airmen stationed overseas, the AOC stands ready to deliver the mobility support our forces need, anytime, anywhere.