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A personal outlook of Air Serv International’s Iraq emergency program

By Mira Kassis
Air Serv International, Jordan

Many achievements are related to Air Serv’s Iraq emergency program and I will try to summarize everything in this letter … it won’t be easy but I will try to reflect my perspective of this successful program. As an Air Serv staff member, I feel part of this big web of humanitarian relief; it makes me more humble toward those we serve and strengthens my belief that where there’s a will, there’s a way.

The humanitarian relief community relies on Air Serv to be the last to leave. Knowing that they will not be left behind is a great relief. In our program where most of the international non-governmental organizations have evacuated from Iraq due to security reasons, Air Serv is still there.

In November 2004, our country director made the decision to close Air Serv’s Baghdad office and residence because of the mounting danger in Iraq and in particular on the airport road where our Baghdad staff operated from Jordan on a weekly rotational basis.

Despite the dangerous and unstable situation there, we are still operating, but our base is in Jordan. The demand has not decreased because the humanitarian organizations still fly Air Serv to Baghdad, Erbil and Basrah, our main destinations in Iraq. Our staff has expanded over a period of almost two years; we have recruited two flight attendants for both Embraers, and additional crew and engineers joined our program to ensure safe and professional flights. We’ve also added staff to handle the logistical side of our operations to facilitate ground transportation and accommodate the demands of the increase in crew and aircrafts.

We are hoping for things to improve now that the Iraqi elections been held. With the presence of a government supporting its people, the Iraqis will enjoy peace and welfare long overdue and much needed.

The success of our program is attributed foremost to the good spirit among the whole Air Serv International team in Jordan and Baghdad, which has been noticed by everyone who gets the chance to see us interact on a humane level. Because one thing bonds us, our humanitarian mission, we work for that goal, and the result of our hard work is always rewarding. Over the past 18 months, we have been part of many security and medical evacuations in which we transported children, infants and the elderly. We saved lives … and gave hope.

Our program has expanded since its start in March 2003; now we are operating with three aircrafts-two Embraers 120, each with a capacity to carry 30 passengers, and one Beechcraft 1900 that can carry 13 passengers. With such capacity we are able to accommodate the increasing demand of the other humanitarian organizations operating in Iraq.

Medical and security evacuations form a crucial part of our overall objectives. Air Serv believes in the importance of these evacuations for many reasons, partly because they satisfy our humanitarian appetite and mostly because they strongly correlate with our vision: “Connecting people … forgetting no one. Together we change lives.”

Mira Kassis works for Air Serv International’s Iraq emergency program out of Amman, Jordan. Since May 2003, Air Serv International has been providing humanitarian flight operations, transporting aid workers and supplies from Amman to Baghdad and providing critical medevac services for people in need of emergency health care.