KAHULUI, Hawaii -- Master Sgt. Michelle Kelly, an airlift manager from the 173rd Fighter Wing, Oregon Air National Guard, is serving as the transportation lead for Tropic Care Maui County 2018, a joint Innovative Reading Training mission providing no-cost medical, dental, and vision services to people in Maui, Molokai and Lanai from August 11-19.
Kelly has served in the Air National Guard for 18 years. She lives in Klammath Falls, Oregon with her husband and enjoys raising pigs and horseback riding.
For Tropic Care Maui County 2018, Kelly planned all of the transportation to three different islands for over 350 service members from several military service branches. Tropic Care Maui County 2018 covers six different sites on three separate islands that require transportation of personnel and supplies to and from the sites.
Just before the majority of service members were to travel to the islands for the start of the mission, Hurricane Hector was moving through the Pacific, with the possibility of impacting the Hawaiian Islands. Kelly had to coordinate a contingency plan for travel—the day before the main body of service members was to arrive.
“The hurricane created a lot of transportation challenges,” she said. “When you fly military aircraft you have a large amount of people coming in at the same time and same place and you can concentrate your transportation to that one location. Due to the hurricane we had to switch to commercial air, which meant we had small groups coming in at different times, and we had to adapt our transportation plan to that which was a huge challenge, but it worked out.”
“The biggest challenge came from having to redirect everyone’s flights to Maui. Originally everyone was supposed to fly directly to their islands at Molokai and Lanai, but due to safety concerns from the hurricane the decision was made to fly everyone into Maui. This meant we had to move over 40 personnel and an enormous amount of equipment across the island to a ferry to Lanai. We pieced it together when we could, but the ferries kept getting canceled due to the weather as well. It was challenging, but we made it work. We ran into the same challenge trying to get everyone and their equipment out to Molokai with their flights. But the aircrew from the Montana Air National Guard flying the C-130 were absolutely amazing and made it happen,” Kelly said.
Hurricane Hector moved away from the islands. Tropic Care participants arrived in Maui on Thursday, August 9 instead of Wednesday, August 8 and were able to travel to their final clinic sites to prepare to receive patients by August 10. Clinics were able to open on schedule on Saturday, August 11.
Tropic Care Maui County 2018 is a joint-service Innovative Readiness Training mission led by the Air National Guard and supported by members of the Air Force, Army, Navy Reserve, and Marine Corps Reserve. Tropic Care provides medical troops and support personnel “hands-on” readiness training to prepare for future deployments while providing direct and lasting benefits to the people of Maui, Molokai, and Lanai.