As donors began to send semi-trucks of water and supplies, the Conroe North Houston Regional Airport became the natural staging point for relief operations, said the US Air Force (USAF). An anonymous billionaire donated three semi-trailers full of bottled water to relieve water shortages caused by Hurricane Harvey.
Two local aviators, Chad Herdrich and Mike Barksdale, began to negotiate hanger space to store the supplies and called for local pilots to carry them to flooded communities north of Beaumont, said the USAF. However, they faced two problems: their personal aircraft could only carry a few hundred pounds at a time, and the airspace became congested with military helicopters trying to locate trapped survivors, the USAF noted.
As a solution, the two men reached out to local US Army Reserve aviators with the 1st Battalion (Assault Helicopter Battalion), 158th Aviation Regiment. One day later, four CH-47 Chinooks from the 7th Battalion (General Support Aviation Battalion), 158th Aviation Regiment, each capable of moving 15,000 lbs (6,800 kg) of water, took on the mission.
“We kept having semi-loads show up and we just weren’t cutting a dent into it,” said Herdrich. “…The Army Reserve comes in and tackles the issue with these big CH-47 Chinooks and God bless them that they came in and helped us out.”
Capt. Chris Fishel, an assistant operations officer for 1st Battalion (Assault Helicopter Battalion), 158th Aviation Regiment, commented: “We do have the capability to move a massive amount of cargo to affected areas with four Chinook and three UH-60 Black Hawks. Yesterday, we moved just shy of 100,000 lb. Safety is always paramount, and airspace de-confliction is a huge aspect of it.”
Fishel added: “This community has supported us through the good times, through the bad times for a lot of years. Having the opportunity to support the community that has supported us for all those years is an honour, it’s a privilege and it’s a responsibility that we take very seriously.”