Joe Edwards and Dave Pearson
YORK, April 30, 2010 – Time magazine editors have named Air
Force Chief Master Sgt. Antonio D. Travis to the 2010 Time 100, the
magazine's annual list of the 100 most-influential people in the world,
for his efforts after the Haiti earthquake.
Travis was one of the first
members on the ground at the Toussaint L'Ouverture International
Airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, only 30 hours after the Jan. 12
earthquake and less than 12 hours after the nation's president
requested U.S. assistance. The chief led a team of special tactics
airmen from the 23rd, 21st and 123rd special tactics squadrons.
With his team of combat veterans, Travis led the largest single-runway
operation in history, using hand-held radios to control thousands of
aircraft. Their air traffic control tower was a card table set up next
to the airport's runway.
"Twenty-eight minutes after
controlled the first air landing followed immediately by a departure,
and we did not slow down for the next 12 days," said Travis, who hails
from Nelson County, Ky.
After establishing control of the airfield there, his team orchestrated
an orderly flow for incoming aircraft and dealt with the constraints of
the inadequate airfield, which potentially could have limited relief
Facing 42 aircraft jammed into a parking ramp designed to accommodate
10 large planes and untangling the gridlock was the first of many
seemingly insurmountable challenges necessary to facilitate the flood
of inbound relief flights.
In the dawn of the U.S. response to the Haitian crisis, Travis
coordinated with Miami-based Federal Aviation Administration officials
via text messaging on his BlackBerry. His ingenuity paid massive
dividends as priority aircraft transited the small airport, delivering
lifesaving water, food and medical supplies in support of the U.S.
Agency for International Development-led international humanitarian
From chaos, Travis established order as his combat controllers reduced
a four-hour hold time in the air on Day 1 to less than two hours on Day
2 and less than 15 minutes by Day 3.
For 12 days, 24-hours-a-day, the airfield team ran the international
airport in Port-au-Prince. Together with more than 200 other airmen
from Hurlburt Field, Fla., they tirelessly ensured the safe and
effective control of more than 4,000 takeoffs and landings, an average
of one aircraft operation every five minutes, and enabled the delivery
of 4 million pounds of humanitarian relief to the people of Haiti.
Without computers or electricity, Travis and his team controlled as
many as 250 aircraft daily, exceeding the normal capacity of the
airfield by 1,400 percent without a single incident. By Jan. 25, his
team was able to hand operations over to Air Force air traffic
controllers with a portable control tower.
While directing the airfield operations, Travis also supervised a group
of pararescuemen, known as PJs, and medical technicians who augmented a
search-and-rescue team from Virginia. These teams were credited with 13
technical rescues and 17 additional saves. Additionally, the special
tactics airmen he led surveyed nearly 100 sites for use as potential
humanitarian relief supply delivery sites.
His teams’ technical expertise and unflagging commitment
ultimately led to successful air deliveries by C-17 Globemaster IIIs of
humanitarian aid that included more than 150,000 bottles of water and
75,000 packaged meals that subsequently were delivered to earthquake
victims by helicopter.
Travis is the chief enlisted manager of the Air Force Special
Operations Training Center at Hurlburt Field. He served
seven-and-a-half years in the Marine Corps before transferring into the
Air Force as a combat controller in 1993.
As a senior combat controller, he has supported combat, combat support,
humanitarian, and search-and-rescue operations throughout the United
States, the Pacific and European theaters, and at many austere
locations across the globe.
Travis is married to the former Andrea Lawrence of Bardstown, Ky. Their
children are Brittany, 21; Amanda, 19; and Emily, 15.
Like Army Rangers and Navy SEALS, Air Force special tactics airmen are
an elite force of special operators. They are Combat Controllers, who
conduct tactical airfield operations and close air support; PJs, who
conduct combat search and rescue; special operations weathermen, who
provide tactical weather forecasting and environmental reconnaissance;
and tactical air controllers, who integrate close air support into
special operations missions.