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Brigadier General Jan-Marc Jouas, USAF
Combined Support Force-536
Director, Air Component Coordination Element and
Tom Fry, USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team

DoD Briefing on Operation Unified Assistance
Utapao, Thailand
January 9, 2005

 

General Jouas: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Our efforts here continue and we're seeing progress where we're working closely with the nations that we are assisting. This is obviously a monumental task of trying to get relief where it's needed, and it's been impressive seeing a large number of organizations that have come together with the common goal of improving the lives of those who have lost so much.

I've personally been impressed by the way things have come together in a relatively short time and we will continue to improve as time goes on.

In terms of airlift and transport, this amounts to the largest humanitarian relief effort since the Berlin Airlift in 1947.

Mr. Tom Fry has a brief statement and then we'll take some questions. Thank you.

Mr. Fry: Thank you, General. This is Tom Fry.

First of all I'd like to give a little background on my position here. I'm here as what's called the DART's team leader for the components here in Utapao. The DART is the Disaster Assistance Response Team which is a part of the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance I guess you'd say operational arm that has the capability to go to the field when disasters occur. The Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance is under the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Under the U.S. Agency for International Development, acronym USAID, to date in this disaster USAID has committed over $77 million to this effort, and that is not counting the efforts of the U.S. military. Also in that, as part of that, we have moved over 27,000 metric tons of food, some by the military, some by ship heading towards this area to help feed those in need. And as I'm sure everyone knows, there's been somewhere in the neighborhood of 160,000 deaths in this disaster.

But I think the thing to remember, that there's right now somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.5 million displaced persons in the countries affected by this disaster and those are some of the victims that we're now attempting to assist.

Some of the things we work on in assisting them, some of the most critical needs initially are water, food, medical assistance to prevent disease, shelter and sanitation. After the relief effort is -- I don't want to say taken care of, but as we're working on that, the next phase we are looking at is of course rehabilitation.

Another important part of that to not lose sight of is the need for rebuilding people's lives and bringing back their livelihoods. Because you can build a home, but if a person does not have a livelihood that is not the complete cycle to get them back to where they were before this terrible disaster.

So with that I think I'll just leave it off. But one final thing, my mission here is to work with the military to coordinate and synchronize the efforts of the civilian side of the U.S. government with those of the U.S. military.

Thank you.

General Jouas: We'll take questions now.

Q: This is Donna Miles from American Forces Press Service.

I'm curious. This is the largest airlift operation since the Berlin Airlift. In carrying that out, what are the big challenges you're seeing to do something of this massive scale?

General Jouas: There are a variety of challenges. One of them, of course, are the great distances that must be covered and also getting the relief materials that come into the various ports in which we have to embark them on our C-130s and get them forward to the points where helicopters can actually distribute them to those that need them the most.

Also the fact that we are operating in different locations -- In Thailand, in Indonesia, and in Sri Lanka adds to the complexity of the problem.

We're fortunate to have the resources that we have, the personnel that we have from all the services, from the other nations that are assisting, and particularly the assistance of our host nations that enable us to be as successful as we have been.

Voice: Additional questions?

Q: Jim Katzen from DOA Public Affairs.

I'm just wondering if between the General and the others there if you've had any kind of workings with the DLA people there as far as their support and that sort of thing, how that's going along.

General Jouas: I personally have not had any dealings with the DLA personnel. That's not to say that others in the organization haven't. I'll turn that over to Tom.

Mr. Fry: Not that I know of. Sometimes I know we will source some materials from DLA that we can't maybe get from the public sector, but none that I know of, I guess.

Q: This is Donna Miles again.

I'm curious about the delivery system and how you're working with the limited number of places where your aircraft can actually land and how that whole coordination is going.

General Jouas: That's a great question. Because the tsunami, in addition to taking so many lives also destroyed a lot of the infrastructure that we would have otherwise been able to use. So one of the things that we are doing is evaluating all the possible locations where we could bring in our aircraft. Then if we find it suitable, preferably bringing in a short lift aircraft, a C-130, that will carry supplies to that point, and then from there using helicopters to bring it from those areas where we cannot reach with C-130s or by roads, because a lot of the road infrastructure has been torn up also.

We also have a lot of supplies that are brought in by ship and the Navy's doing a great job of using their organic assets -- SH-60 helicopters, CH-46 helicopters -- to help deliver those goods from ship to shore.

Q: How many actual operational landing areas do you have at this point for your C-130s?

General Jouas: In Sri Lanka we have one point at which our C-130s are flying into. In Thailand we're operating out of Bangkok, we're operating out of Utapao where we're currently located, and also out of an airfield near Phuket.

In Indonesia we have currently two airfields we're operating out of, not to include Jakarta, which we are using as a hub for our C-130 operations. We're flying into Banda Aceh at the northern tip of Sumatra. We're also flying into Medan, which is on the east coast, a little bit south of Banda Aceh. We're looking for other airfields on the west coast of Sumatra that would be suitable for C-130 operations but since that's the area that took the brunt of the tsunami, it's very difficult to find a runway that would accommodate a C-130 sized aircraft.

Voice: Any other questions?

Q: I'd like to just confirm. So we have three sites right now in Indonesia, we have three in Thailand and we have one in Sri Lanka.

General Jouas: There are others, of course, in other nations. We have Kuala Lumpur, we have Singapore, we have other ports in which many of the international aid organizations are bringing relief supplies, and we're using strategic lift to sometimes bring that from those destinations into Utapao and then going forward with the C-130s from there, or we're using sealift, whereby the Navy picks up relief supplies and brings it into the area in which they're needed, and then taken by helicopter from ship to shore where it's needed most.

Voice: Any others?

Q: Not from me right now.

(END)



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