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Deployed Airmen support Operation Unified Assistance

by Capt. Carlos Diaz
Combined Support Force 536 Public Affairs

1/10/2005 - LANGKAWI, Malaysia (AFPN) -- The mission was simple: bring a forklift here only to be moved by another unit to Banda Aceh, Indonesia, the next day.

Airmen of the 374th Air Expeditionary Wing at Utapao, Thailand, support Combined Support Force 536, which is playing an integral role to the international support effort called Operation Unified Assistance.

"This is a very important mission. This forklift will help expedite the unloading process in Banda Aceh," said 1st Lt. Rob Reinbach, a C-130 Hercules co-pilot from the 36th Airlift Squadron at Yokota AB, Japan. "On one of our first support missions, we had to unload about 10,000 pounds of supplies by hand. This equipment will allow us to increase the flow of aircraft providing support to Indonesia."

The 374th AEW has provided the strategic airlift necessary to move water, food, people and, in this case, heavy equipment.

"Doing things like this is the best part of the mission because we get to experience firsthand the impact of our actions," said Staff Sgt. Mark Parth, a C-130 flight engineer with the 36th AS.

"We were part of the first C-130s to land in Thailand and Indonesia. When we got there, military members of both countries were waiting for us, ready to help unload the supplies we were transporting to the affected areas," Sergeant Parth said.

Most of the servicemembers participating in the humanitarian operation said they did not have to think twice when asked to participate in what would become the largest humanitarian operation since the Berlin Airlift.

"I got a call shortly after the disaster happened, and I said 'yes, right away,'" Tech. Sgt. David Bragg said. "We always train for situations like this, and I was not going to miss the opportunity to help others."

So far, the combined support force has helped to move more than 782 tons of food, water and supplies to Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Thailand. More than 16,000 servicemembers are supporting U.S. and international organizations relief operations.

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