Utah reservists return from Haiti

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Reservists from Hill Air Force Base have been in Haiti for the past month. Friday evening, some of them arrived back in Utah.

"When we were down there, it was a humbling experience. We' don't know how great we have it as American citizens," Cody de los Reyes said, of the 67th Aerial Port Squadron.

The squadron's mission was to help get airport operations at Port-au-Prince running again. Fifteen members of the group volunteered for the month-long operation. They left from Hill Air Force Base at the end of January.

The main airport in Port-au-Prince was severely damaged after the Jan. 12 earthquake. Because of that, all the aid and help coming to Haiti was getting delayed in the Dominican Republic and other places.

When I was there, a group of guys set up a radio table off the edge of a runway to communicate with pilots just so planes could land. Now, since the Hill Air Force Base team has been in Haiti, 2,000 planes have landed -- bringing in 15,000 passengers and 12,000 tons of cargo.

Those supplies have gone to Haitians to help them, and the troops say the people were very appreciative.

"Definitely, definitely worth it," Justin Adams said. "It makes you feel so good inside, not just for what we're trained to do -- bringing in the humanitarian aid and getting it to civilians -- but you know, looking for the unfortunate case of human remains."

The troops said the most important thing they observed is the need for strong building codes like those required in this country.

Only five members of the team came home Friday; the other 10 will return within the next couple of weeks.

E-mail: acabrero@ksl.com

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