An Instagram photo posted by an opposition group to Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro shows a U.S. Air Force Boeing C-17 Globemaster III landing in Cucuta, Colombia, just over the border from its troubled neighbor. Emblazoned on the side of the plane: “McGuire.”
Local airmen and women are one of the primary suppliers of aid to the South American nation embroiled in a political fight amidst hyperinflation and a lack of food or medical supplies. The tense situation is expected to come to a head on Saturday when National Assembly leader Juan Guaido, recognized as interim president by more than 60 countries, will lead a mass attempt to retrieve aid from Cucuta and a Brazilian town on the country’s southern border where aid has been blocked by the Maduro regime.
“United States Air Force humanitarian aid missions are the most meaningful missions that we fly,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Susan Jennie, a pilot who serves with the 6th Airlift Squadron at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst “The opportunity to fly these kinds of missions was my biggest motivation to train and fly on the C-17. To be able to help out and bring aid to those in need, when needed, is one of the most rewarding opportunities I’ve been presented in my life and career.”
The C-17s that have delivered aid to Cucuta have flown from the Joint Base in New Jersey and Joint Base Charleston in South Carolina, according to the U.S. Department of Defense Southern Command, which oversees American military activities in South America.
The first shipment of food and medical aid to Cucuta, where millions of Venezuelans have fled, occurred Feb. 16. Mark Green, the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) said there are future aid flights planned. The aid packages flown from New Jersey and South Carolina include “critical nutrition products and hygiene supplies,” Green said. Colombia has also supplied aid to Venezuelan refugees in the form of high-energy biscuits and protein bars.
“This whole of government response is a demonstration of the U.S. commitment to the Venezuelan people,” said Col. Armando Hernandez, deputy public affairs chief, United States Southern Command. ““The U.S. military has a long history of supporting USAID-led aid missions and working with international relief organizations to provide aid to people impacted by life-threatening crises and disasters.”