An Air Force C-17 flew from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, to Indianapolis on May 22, delivering 132 pallets of specialty infant formula to help address the shortages currently affecting parents across the U.S.
All told, the aircraft, assigned to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, delivered 78,000 pounds of formula, enough for more than 750,000 eight-ounce bottles.
It’s the first step of U.S. Transportation Command’s Operation Fly Formula, an effort to source infant formula from abroad as U.S. production has cratered in recent months, leading to empty store shelves and outrage among parents.
President Joe Biden announced the operation May 18, with the White House initially saying that the Defense Department would use contracted commercial aircraft to deliver the formula from Switzerland to Indiana.
But as TRANSCOM planners worked on the issue, it became clear that to contract a flight would take at least several days, according to a May 23 press release.
Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III approved the use of military aircraft, and the Department of Health and Human Services contracted for trucks to transport the formula from Switzerland to Germany, a TRANSCOM spokesperson told Air Force Magazine.
Airmen from the 721st Aerial Port Squadron helped to unload the formula and then place it on the C-17, which flew to Indianapolis International Airport. There it was greeted by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack as well as FedEx trucks to further transport the formula.
While the Air Force provided the aircraft for the first shipment of formula, the Defense Department has already contracted out the second flight of Operation Fly Formula to a commercial partner, the White House announced May 22. And moving forward, the TRANSCOM spokesperson told Air Force Magazine, the plan is to continue to have commercial partners provide the flights for the operation.