Last year, newspaper headlines and TV and radio newscasts blasted our senses with reports of such things as devastating earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, along with massive floods in Pakistan and a volcanic eruption in Iceland. After a few days, though, media reports moved on to the next big news event. But for the son of a Cape Coral woman, picking up the pieces in the aftermath in places like Haiti and Pakistan was just the beginning of business as usual.
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Eric P. Sullivan, son of Linda Miller of S.W. 42nd Terrace, Cape Coral, is an aircraft maintenance craftsman assigned to the 621st Contingency Response Wing at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. Sullivan is part of a highly specialized unit that can deploy quickly to combat hot spots or disaster areas and quickly open airfields and is often the first to provide a vital pipeline in getting food and supplies to the devastated areas.
"I ensure that aircraft are air worthy and mission ready by inspecting, servicing and conducting required maintenance," said Sullivan, a 1997 Okeechobee High School graduate.
Photo by Benjamin Faske
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Eric P. Sullivan helped to move cargo and passengers into Haiti after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck the region in 2010.
Sullivan and his team are made up of three main organizations in 10 geographically separated areas that are often co-located with Army and Marine Corps units. Everything from air refueling to command and control, off-loading and on-loading people and equipment, security, maintenance and damage assessment is included in the make-up of the units. Sullivan and his team members often find themselves working and living in conditions far from ideal.
"I have deployed to the Middle East four times, and I was involved with relief efforts after Hurricane Ike in 2007," said Sullivan.
While they are constantly ready and willing to respond to disaster relief operations like Haiti and Pakistan, Sullivan and his team also do what is necessary to get the war-time mission done.
"The work we did in Bahrain ultimately saves lives of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines in Afghanistan," said Sullivan.
Sullivan also believes that, even though his wartime mission is important, being the first to respond to disasters around the world gives the U.S. the reputation of lending a helping hand when needed.
"It's important for the U.S. to help countries when they need it after disasters because it helps to build relationships, and shows that we are a caring nation," said Sullivan.
But having the ability to respond anywhere around the world on a moment's notice means that Sullivan and his unit are required to constantly train to stay sharp at what they do. A number of functions need to come together at once to make things happen.
"The unpredictability of what we do is hard for family to understand until they see the impact of our operations," said Sullivan.
No one knows what disaster or trouble spot awaits, but it's a good bet that Sullivan and his team won't be far behind to help pick up the pieces.