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American Forces Press Service

Bush Praises Military Support in South Asia

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 8, 2005 -- U.S. military men and women providing disaster relief in the Indian Ocean "are showing the courage and compassion of our nation to the world," just as they do "in some many other places," President Bush said today during his weekly radio address.

The president cited the important contributions the U.S. military is making, two weeks after a tsunami left more than 150,000 dead -- a number that continues to rise as teams reach previously inaccessible areas.

"Navy vessels, including the USS Abraham Lincoln, have moved into the region to help provide, food, medical supplies and clean water," he said. "Helicopters and other military aircraft are meeting critical needs by airlifting supplies directly to victims in remote areas."

Bush said the U.S. initial commitment of $350 million in aid is being distributed promptly to organizations on the ground and urged Americans to continue their "outpouring of generosity" for victims of the catastrophe.

During his visit to the region this week with Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell reported that American relief efforts "are making major visible progress," the president said today. Powell is expected to give the president a firsthand briefing on Jan. 10 of his tour through the region.

The president said the United States is working with other governments, relief organizations and the United Nations to coordinate a swift and effective international response.

"We are rushing food, medicine and other vital supplies to the region," Bush said. "And we are focusing efforts on helping women and children who need special attention, including protection from the evil of human trafficking."

As of Jan. 7, the U.S. military had 12,633 soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen providing relief support, U.S. Pacific Command officials reported. This includes nearly 11,000 afloat aboard 19 Navy ships and a Coast Guard cutter, and nearly 1,800 on the ground in Thailand, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Collectively, they have delivered more than 2 million tons of relief supplies, more than 16,000 gallons of water, 434,000 pounds of food, and 1.5 million tons of nonmedical supplies.

During a press conference today in Indonesia, Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Christian Cowdrey said U.S. military forces are making steady progressing in bringing relief to Indonesia, where the death toll continues to climb as more victims are discovered in remote areas.

Cowdrey, who is overseeing U.S. relief forces in Indonesia, said the USS Abraham Lincoln is "still on station and providing support," including evacuating people with serious injures to medical care. Meanwhile, he said the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard is providing critical medium- and heavy-airlift capabilities.

Two more vessels are expected to arrive in the region within the next two days, Cowdrey reported, bringing medical and surgical and debris-clearing capabilities, he said.

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