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Once again, the worker-soldiers of the 914th Airlift Wing of the Air Force Reserve, based in Niagara Falls, are being pressed into duty in the name of humanitarianism.

About 250 of the unit's members were involved in a series of relief flights this weekend to Guatemala and Nicaragua, two countries that were devastated by Hurricane Mitch in late October and early November.

The latest estimates are that at least 10,000 people died in Central America when flooding rains from the hurricane swept away whole villages and destroyed many of the area's bridges and roads. Experts have said it may take Guatemala decades to recover.

Right now, according to Air Force Reserve spokesman Neil Nolf, the most urgent need is for the essentials: food and water.

Six C-130 Hercules aircraft began their mission from the Niagara Falls Air Base Thursday. After picking up food and water in Gulfport, Miss., the members of the 914th flew to Guatemala and Nicaragua Friday, then again on Saturday before their scheduled return to Niagara Falls today.

More than 250 members of the reserve wing participated in the emergency food and water drop, Nolf said.

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