HARRISBURG, Pa., Jan. 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Governor Edward G. Rendell said the mobilization of a Pennsylvania Air National Guard unit based in Middletown, Dauphin County, that began yesterday, marks the latest effort on the part of the commonwealth to help the people of Haiti who are reeling from the earthquake that struck earlier this week.
"When disaster strikes, Pennsylvanians -- like all Americans -- open their hearts and freely give of themselves and, I'm proud to say, this instance is no different," said Governor Rendell. "There are hundreds of thousands of people in Haiti facing such dire need that we can hardly grasp or fathom the scope of it, yet our residents are stepping up to help."
In what he called an "unprecedented humanitarian mission," the Governor said that the 193rd Special Operations Wing has been called upon to support the Air Force Special Operations Command mission in Haiti to provide rapid response capabilities to the small Caribbean nation on the island of Hispaniola.
Some 50 Airmen and three C-130 aircraft from the 193rd Special Operations Wing have been deployed in the mission. One of the aircraft departed late Thursday evening and the other two left Middletown today. The aircraft -- two cargo planes and one airborne radio and television station named Commando Solo -- will be staged at locations outside the devastated area.
"Our National Guard is honored to extend a helping hand to the people of Haiti," said Maj. Gen. Jessica L. Wright, commander of the Pennsylvania National Guard. "I am proud of these dedicated Airmen who are always ready to answer the call of duty, whether it is for combat missions or to aid those in need."
Yesterday, Governor Rendell asked that all Pennsylvanians who are able to contribute offer their financial support to one of the many reputable relief organizations providing aid in Haiti.
"At this time, relief organizations urgently need financial support," said the Governor. "Monetary donations provide groups with the greatest flexibility to address the most pressing needs in Haiti quickly. Every dollar counts in a disaster of this magnitude, so even a small donation will go a long way toward helping to ease the suffering in Haiti.
"And while I know many Pennsylvanians are anxious to give what they can, I urge everyone to proceed with caution and please take the time to research the organization to ensure it is legitimate."
To avoid unscrupulous organizations or those intent on exploiting this tragedy, the Governor urged Pennsylvanians to either call the state's Bureau of Charitable Organizations or visit its Web site, www.dos.state.pa.us and click on "Charities."
Additionally, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency has been working with staff from the national Urban Search and Rescue program on planning and preparedness activities. Two members from PA Task Force 1, or PA-TF1, have been deployed as part of an overhead coordination team that provides planning and logistical support to personnel operating in the field. The state's task force coordinates with local, state and federal authorities on where teams will operate and prioritize missions and activities.
The two PA-TF1 members are currently staged in Homestead Air Force Base in Florida awaiting their assignment in Haiti.
The American response effort is being coordinated by the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development. For more information, visit www.state.gov.
Gary Tuma, Governor's Office; 717-783-1116
Lt. Col. Chris Cleaver, DMVA; 717-821-2094
SOURCE Pennsylvania Office of the Governor