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AMC aircraft, people support tsunami-relief operations

by Tech. Sgt. Mark Diamond
Air Mobility Command Public Affairs


1/6/2005 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AFPN)  -- In the days following the Dec. 26 tsunami disaster around the Indian Ocean, Air Mobility Command aircraft and people have delivered tons of relief equipment and hundreds of servicemembers into the affected region.

As of Jan. 6, AMC aircraft and aircrews had delivered more than 1.66 million pounds of cargo and 748 passengers supporting tsunami-relief operations.

Col. Richard Richardson, director of operations for the tanker airlift control center, said as soon as officials here learned of the tsunami disaster, they were ready in case AMC aircraft or people were needed.

The first call came Dec. 29 when a C-17 Globemaster III from McChord Air Force Base, Wash., was tasked to move a C-130 Hercules maintenance package from Yokota Air Base, Japan, to Utapao, Thailand. The C-130s are providing airlift within the tsunami-devastated countries.

In the days following that initial tasking, C-5 Galaxy and C-17 Globemaster III aircraft were called upon more than 20 times, moving everything from helicopters and relief equipment to support people and emergency responders.

Colonel Richardson said as of Jan. 5, AMC had six C-5 aircraft staged out of Kadena AB, Japan, and four McChord C-17s staged out of Utapao. Another C-17, from Charleston AFB, S.C., brought U.S. Army civil affairs Soldiers and equipment to the region Jan. 4.

The C-5s include three active-duty aircraft from Travis AFB, Calif., and two Air Force Reserve planes from Lackland AFB, Texas, and Westover Air Reserve Base, Mass., and one Air National Guard aircraft Stewart Air National Guard Base, N.Y.

The colonel said that Reserve and Guard participation during the relief operations is "significant" and "outstanding."

As of Jan. 5, AMC aircraft had airlifted the following equipment and people supporting tsunami-relief operations:

-- Communications equipment and people assigned to the U.S. Marine Corps' 7th Communication Battalion in Japan.

-- C-17s flew six HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters and two CH-46 helicopters and related support equipment. A single C-17 can carry two CH-46 helicopters.

-- Two U.S. Marine Corps Force Service Support Groups. They provide combat service support to Marine Corps forces worldwide.

-- A U.S. Navy Seabee from Guam. The colonel said they were flown to the region to provide critical water-well-drilling support.

-- A C-17 maintenance package from McChord.

-- People and equipment assigned to Kadena's 18th Communications Squadron.

Besides flying people and equipment, AMC Airmen also ran a tanker airlift control element out of Travis. They will provide on-site management of AMC airfield operations, including command and control, communications, aerial port services, maintenance, security, weather and intelligence -- those critical elements needed to ensure safe and highly efficient air bases for all tanker and airlift operations.

AMC's initial relief efforts have not gone unnoticed.

A senior U.S. Agency for International Development official said support from AMC aircraft has been both welcomed and necessary. USAID is the lead governmental department responsible for U.S. tsunami-relief operations.

Edward Fox, USAID's assistant administrator for legislative and public affairs, said "the one thing that distinguishes the United States from the rest of the world is its military, especially the Air Force and its airlift capability."

He said Air Force airlift is a central part of any relief effort of this magnitude.

"To be able to provide the type of emergency response needed to save lives, the Air Force logistical capability is indispensable to USAID and others in the international relief area, because we don't have those types of assets," Mr. Fox said. "We are extremely delighted and proud to be working side by side with the U.S. Air Force."

For example, Mr. Fox said the helicopters being delivered "are worth their weight in gold." He explained that the topography of Indonesia and other countries struck by this disaster make normal means of transportation impossible.

"Without the helicopters we wouldn't be able to get the assessment teams in to determine what response to take," Mr. Fox said. "Helicopters also provide a lifeline to get water, food and medical supplies into these communities to sustain them in the early stages of a disaster; until the normal modes of the transportation are restored."

Mr. Fox said the most urgent problem they face now is the prevention of further loss of life caused by the effects of the tsunamis: contaminated water supplies, people dislodged from their homes and the threat of disease.

"This is the perfect breeding ground for major health problems and diseases which could kill as many people as the event itself," he said. "The ability to provide clean drinking water, plastic sheeting for shelter, water purification kits and food supplies is literally saving lives."

For this and other reasons, Mr. Fox said "the (importance of the) logistic lift capability provided by the U.S. Air Force cannot be overstated." (Courtesy of AMC News Service)





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