C-17s Rush U.S. Rescue Teams to Türkiye After Earthquake

A pair of U.S. Air Force C-17s arrived in Türkiye on Feb. 8, carrying disaster relief personnel and equipment to help with the recovery from a massive earthquake. 

The 7.8 magnitude earthquake, which struck Feb. 5, has killed at least 12,000 people across Türkiye and Syria and sparked a humanitarian disaster—tens of thousands injured, many people homeless, and others still trapped under the rubble. 

U.S. Transportation Command was tapped to transport aid, and within 24 hours of notification, two flights departed, one each from Dover Air Force Base, Del.; and March Air Reserve Base, Calif. The aircraft were from the 305th Air Mobility Wing at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and the 176th Wing of the Alaska Air National Guard. 

“Air Mobility Command, under the direction of U.S. Transportation Command and in coordination with The U.S. Agency for International Development is providing airlift to support emergency humanitarian assistance to respond to the devastating impacts following the earthquake in the region,” an AMC spokesperson told Air & Space Forces Magazine. 

According to a release from TRANSCOM, the two flights carried 159 people, 12 rescue dogs, and 170,000 pounds of specialized equipment.  

That included specialists and equipment from Fairfax County, Va., and Los Angeles County, Calif. Both teams are certified by the U.S. Agency for International Development for international disaster assistance efforts. 

Landing at Incirlik Air Base, they were greeted by U.S. Ambassador to Türkiye Jeffry Flake. The 728th Air Mobility Squadron assisted in receiving and unloading the aircraft. Incirlik, located some 200 kilometers from the earthquake’s epicenter, suffered no major damage, according to the 39th Air Base Wing‘s Facebook page. Some facilities were closed on base, but all personnel were safe and accounted for.  

More help is expected: Air Force Brig. Gen. Patrick S. Ryder, the Pentagon’s chief spokeman, told reporters that a team from U.S. European Command would arrive Feb. 9 to assist USAID’s Disaster Assistance Response Team. Other aid is likely in the weeks ahead. U.S. Air Force assets are crucial for transporting personnel, equipment, and humanitarian aid in response to natural disasters.