HILL AIR FORCE BASE -- A few days after one of the worst natural disasters in recent history, a group of Hill Air Force Base reservists were on a plane to lend a helping hand.
On Jan. 22, 15 Air Force reservists from the 419th Fighter Wing's 67th Aerial Port Squadron volunteered to help load and unload passengers and cargo in Haiti a few days after the massive earthquake.
The team was key in establishing operations at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital.
The airport serves as the main hub where aid workers and supplies from all over the world come into the region.
"The airport was pretty chaotic," said Tech. Sgt. Justin Adams, a resident of Morgan. "There were so many different people and different organizations that came through there to help."
The 67th's wartime mission is to deploy trained personnel and equipment to process aircraft cargo, load and unload aircraft, inspect aircraft, and provide service to passengers.
The group worked with aircraft from the United Nations and U.S. military, as well as U.S. and international commercial planes.
According to numbers kept by the team, as of Feb. 16, they have handled 1,971 total aircraft, 11,425 tons of cargo, 14,223 passengers, and assisted 7,740 evacuees.
"We went in there just to help out in any way we could -- we didn't really know what to expect," Adams said.
"When we got there, the best way we could help was by doing our trained job of downloading aircraft."
While their mission in Haiti was similar to their wartime mission, in many ways it was very different.
For the first 30 days, the crew was able to shower only once every week. They were issued three MREs each day as their only source of food, and lived in a "tent city" with about 15 people to a tent.
"The living conditions were definitely primitive compared to what we are used to," said Master Sgt. Jeffery Peterborg, a resident of Preston, Idaho. "We did our laundry with a five-gallon bucket of water, a little detergent and a toilet plunger."
The initial shock of their new living quarters quickly evaporated as the team began working 12-hour shifts each day.
"It was probably the biggest culture shock any of us have ever had," said Adams. "There were tarantulas, big bugs, and just all kinds of things that you aren't used to. But then the work started, and we were so consumed with the work, we didn't have time to think about anything else."
After a few weeks in Haiti, the members of the 67th APS heard of a place that was in desperate need of help -- The Hotel Montana.
The group soon began to assist in the recovery of bodies from the four-star hotel that collapsed during the earthquake and buried dozens of people, including Americans.
"Without getting into too much detail, it was a pretty bad scene," said Master Sgt. Ken Wilson, a resident of Perry.
"When you got off the bus, the first thing you noticed was the odor in the air."
While driving to and from the hotel, the crew was astonished by the massive destruction they encountered in the streets of Haiti.
"When we first went through, the roads reminded me of the roads in Utah or Idaho after a really bad snowstorm," said Tech. Sgt. Cody De Los Reyes, a resident of Pocatello. "It was like when all of the snow gets piled up to the side of the road, only it wasn't snow, it was rubble."
The Haitian government reports that an estimated 250,000 residences and 30,000 commercial buildings have collapsed or were severely damaged by the earthquake.
"It seemed like every other house was leveled," Adams said. "It was weird because you'd see a house that looked like it was completely fine, but then the house next door was completely demolished."
After nearly a month and a half, the group is finally shutting down its operations in Haiti.
About half the crew came home Friday, while the rest are scheduled to come back March 1 or 2.
Although the group saw unspeakable tragedy, they say they will leave the country with a renewed faith in humanity.
"It was amazing to see how people from all backgrounds can come together, put aside whatever differences they might have, and work together in the name of mankind," Wilson said.
"I'll definitely be changed after the whole experience. I'll be more grateful for my family and some of the luxuries that we all take for granted. We're pretty lucky living the way we do."