BARBADOS — Aircrew members with the 15th Special Operations Squadron deployed from Hurlburt Field, Florida, evacuated 19 medical students from the island of Dominica Sept. 23, 2017, after it was devastated by Hurricane Maria.
The Air Commandos flew through the night after being tasked on short notice, then volunteered again to rush to the aid of the students, one of whom was under medical observation for sudden health issues.
“That’s why we train, and that’s what we are here for,” said Lt. Col. William Compton, mission commander for the deployment.
The aircrew was on the ground in Barbados, unloading crew and gear for less than 20 minutes before taking off for the possible life-saving mission.
“I was so thankful,” said Yaadveer Chahal, a resident of Berkley, California who was bed ridden prior to the evacuation. “We were extremely scared and not prepared for the worst. We were all crying and weren’t even sure if anyone knew where we were. If it wasn’t for the prior military and current service members who showed up and worked around the clock, we would have been lost.”
The Ross University School of Medicine students described being able to see looters from the airport as they awaited the aid after being without basic amenities for days.
“Thank you so much,” said. “We are so relieved and thankful for this.”
Gabrielle Robinson, a medical student was relieved and thankful following the evacuation. All of the students spoke with exhaustion, describing the conditions of the island as unlivable and a total loss. Their first thoughts after landing were for a shower, food and a fresh change of clothes.
“I’m beyond thankful to be part of this,” Master Sgt. Michael Wilson, 15th SOS loadmaster. “This being my fourth humanitarian deployment, I’ve seen how urgent help can be critical after seeing the devastation of the hurricane season. This is the perfect time to put in to practice what we train for.”