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Yokota C-130s continue to fly aid to tsunami victims

by Master Sgt. Val Gempis
Air Force Print News

1/10/2005 - UTAPAO, Thailand -- C-130 Hercules crews from the 36th Airlift Squadron at Yokota Air Base, Japan, continue to fly vital supplies and equipment to tsunami-stricken areas in Southeast Asia.

"It feels great to help. It makes you feel good to be an American when we are able to share with those who are in need," said Maj. Brian Geromine, a C-130 pilot from the 36th AS.

The C-130s first flew into the damaged areas Dec. 28. They delivered much needed relief supplies to Thailand, Sri Lanka and Indonesia after tsunamis devastated parts of the countries two days earlier.

More than 155,000 people have died, several thousands are missing, and millions are homeless.

Floods cut off roads and bridges to most of the coastal areas.

Bottlenecks of supplies built up quickly as large-scale military and civilian aircraft ferried goods to various airports, officials said.

Yokota C-130 crews helped move life-saving food, water and medicines into places large aircraft could not access.

"We have the unique capability to get into smaller airfields and austere places. We were delivering relief supplies right into people's hands as soon as we arrived here," said Senior Master Sgt. Dave Niehaus, a flight engineer.

The Airmen said that the people coming out to meet the aircraft were very thankful for the supplies. Some of them had not eaten for days.

Squadron Airmen also said that because the aircraft arrived here before their normal support infrastructure, the crew had to load and unload relief supplies by hand.

The Yokota Airmen also said they are proud they have flown without a single flight cancellation.

"It's incredible to see everyone step up to the plate and work around-the-clock. We've had some very long days, but everyone is glad to be here," Sergeant. Niehaus said.

As of Jan. 9, eight Yokota C-130 crews have flown about 60 sorties. They delivered about 550 tons of relief supplies, moved more than 600 displaced and injured people, and flew various military and civilian international assessment teams to different locations.

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