Catastrophes are standard procedure for local soldier
By: CHRISTOPHER HOLMES Special to the Review, Staff Writer
Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. –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 an Ephrata woman, picking up the pieces in the aftermath in places like Haiti and Pakistan was just the beginning of business as usual.
Air Force Maj. Timothy A. Feltis, son of Roxanne Bentzel of Circle Drive, is the wing plans and programs officer assigned to the 621st Contingency Response Wing at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. Feltis 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.
"As an air mobility liaison officer attached with the XVIII Airborne Corps and the 82nd Airborne Division, I served as a Transportation Command and Air Mobility Command liaison officer advising the Army on the airlift structure and assisted with outload efforts," said Feltis, a 1994 graduate of Ephrata High School. He went on to earn his bachelor of science degree in civil engineering from Drexel University in 1999.
Feltis 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. Feltis and his team often find themselves working and living in conditions far from ideal.
"I have been involved with Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Unified Response in Haiti," said Feltis.
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, Feltis believes that their talents lend themselves perfectly to responding to disaster relief operations like Haiti and Pakistan.
"Facilitating the linking of Air Mobility Command crews and aircraft to the Army, thus aiding in the joint effort to provide boots on the ground allowed us to assist in humanitarian efforts in a speedy manner," said Feltis.
Feltis 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 in need demonstrates to the world that we are not only just interested in combat operations supporting the War on Terror, but also making sure that people have the means to survive in a time of crisis," said Feltis.
Having the ability to respond anywhere around the world on a moment’s notice means that Feltis 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.
"Being constantly ready to deploy can make life at home challenging sometimes," said Feltis.
No one knows what disaster or trouble spot awaits, but it’s a good bet that Feltis and his team won’t be far behind to help pick up the pieces. More FELTIS, page A6