Two Naval Air Station Meridian Sailors had less than 24 hours to prepare to leave in support of Operation Unified Response, the joint military relief effort in response to the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck the Caribbean nation of Haiti on Jan. 12.
Petty Officer 1st Class Travis Matney and Petty Officer 2nd Class Bryan Foster, both Aviation Boatswain's Mate Handlers (ABH), will leave Friday, Jan. 22, heading to Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which has become a staging point for aircraft such as the C-17 and H-53 Helo loaded with supplies heading to Haiti.
Navy Region Southeast issued a request for 10 ABHs to assist because of their experience with operating, maintaining, loading, and offloading aircraft. Matney and Foster both volunteered for the 30-day mission.
"This is what the military does. Sometimes we have to deploy on very short notice," Matney said. "Our families are aware of this and support us."
Matney and Foster have been given 30-day orders to Cuba, but were told their orders could be extended up to 90 days.
"It just depends on the need," said Matney, who has 12 years in the U.S. Navy and currently serves as the Field Support Leading Petty Officer. "I except there will be a lot of hard work awaiting us and a lot of long hours."
Chief Chris Mills may be temporarily losing two of his guys but said the rest of the Sailors in Field Support will take up the slack while Matney and Foster are deployed.
"They volunteered and I'm proud of them," Mills said. "This is their opportunity to help, and it will be good for their military careers."
Foster, who has served six years in the Navy, said his knowledge of aircraft will help him do the best job he can.
"We work the flight line and deal with a lot of different types of aircraft; it's what we do," Foster said. "I volunteered because I want to help. I'm used to sea duty and this is basically like a short deployment to somewhere I've never been."
Matney and Foster will join the more than 10,000 Sailors and Marines currently involved in the Haiti humanitarian relief effort. A total of approximately 17 ships, 48 helicopters and 12 fixed-wing aircraft are engaged in delivering relief supplies for distribution to affected areas.