VIENNA, Ohio (WKBN) – Local military reservists played a big role in this month’s humanitarian aid for thousands of Iraqi refugees who were being threatened by the Islamic extremist group ISIS.
Members of the 910th Airlift Wing from the Youngstown Air Reserve Station in Vienna were tasked to fly relief missions to Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq after extremists had cut off their supply line. A few of those reservists spoke with our newsroom Monday from the undisclosed location where the are deployed in southwest Asia and said this month’s humanitarian missions put a real spotlight on the local base.
“It was really rewarding for us to be able to use our training in a practical, real-world situation,” Timothy Kantoark said. “It really brings to fruition all that we have been training for.”
Kantorak is from North Olmstead, near Cleveland, and has been with the local base in Vienna for the past 4-and-a-half years. He said the first mission was Aug. 8 and they did five missions over a 10-day period.
In all, members of the 910th flew five missions to Mount Sinjar, dropping more than 18,000 meals and 23,000 bottles of water to the refugees. The reservists have been deployed to southwest Asia since early May and should be returning to this area the middle of next month.
The reservists said the humanitarian missions took a lot of collaboration.
“We work very closely with the United States Army to get these supplies prepared for the air drop. Just the entire coordination between all branches of the service has been pretty neat to see it all come together,” reservist Justin Speight said.
Master Sgt. Speight is from Green, near Akron, and has been a reservist the past 13 years.
“And to actually have real supplies on the aircraft and knowing they’re going into an area that is not necessarily so friendly is pretty neat, to use those same training skills,” Speight said.
He said the nighttime missions never came under enemy fire and that the crew and their aircraft returned safely. Their commander, former valley Congressman John Boccieri, called the aid missions very rewarding.
“This is one of those opportunities that we have to serve and actually improve the conditions of people who are in great need,” Boccieri said.