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Donaldsonville Airman gives back

Sgt. Christopher Holmes

Last year, newspaper headlines and TV and radio newscasts blasted our senses with reports of such things as devastating earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, along with massive floods in Pakistan and a volcanic eruption in Iceland.

After a few days, though, media reports moved on to the next big news event. But for the son of a Donaldsonville couple, picking up the pieces in the aftermath in places like Haiti and Pakistan was just the beginning of business as usual.

Air Force Senior Airman Mitchell B. Ferchaud, son of Kenneth and Martha Ferchaud of Evangeline Drive, Donaldsonville, is an air transportation journeyman assigned to the 621st Contingency Response Wing at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. Ferchaud is part of a highly specialized unit that can deploy quickly to combat hotspots or disaster areas and quickly open airfields and is often the first to provide a vital pipeline in getting food and supplies to the devastated areas.

"I am in charge of receiving and shipping of cargo and passengers," said Ferchaud, a 2008 graduate of Donaldsonville High School.

Ferchaud and his team are made up of three main organizations in 10 geographically separated areas that are often co-located with Army and Marine Corps units. Everything from air refueling to command and control, offloading and onloading people and equipment, security, maintenance, and damage assessment is included in the make-up of the units.

Ferchaud and his team often find themselves working and living in conditions far from ideal.

"Haiti was a disaster and our workload was outrageous, but we did what we had to do to get the people the help they needed," said Ferchaud.

While their primary job is to go into combat zones like Iraq and

Afghanistan and provide re-supply, medical evacuation and set up or repair unusable airfields, Ferchaud believes that their talents lend themselves perfectly to responding to disaster relief operations like Haiti and Pakistan.

"We have a major impact in getting the needed supplies to the victims after a disaster," said Ferchaud.

Ferchaud also believes that, even though his wartime mission is

important, being the first to respond to disasters around the world gives the U.S. the reputation of lending a helping hand when needed.

"Helping countries recover is important for the U.S. because we are like everyone's big brother, especially the less fortunate countries who may need our help in the time of need," said Ferchaud.

But having the ability to respond anywhere around the world on a moment's notice means that Ferchaud and his unit are required to constantly train to stay sharp at what they do. A number of functions need to come together at once to make things happen.

"Constantly being ready to deploy doesn't really affect my life at home based on the fact that we prepare to leave in a moment's notice all of the time, so we are always expecting the worst," said Ferchaud.

No one knows what disaster or trouble spot awaits, but it's a good bet that Ferchaud and his team won't be far behind to help pick up the pieces.