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Airmen bring aid where needed

by Master Sgt. Michael Farris
353rd Special Operations Group Public Affairs

1/10/2005 - LANGKAWI, Malaysia (AFPN) -- The children of Banda Aceh, Indonesia, a province in the northern tip of Sumatra hit hard by the Dec. 26 tsunamis, returned to school Jan. 10. It is not the same school they remember, and the class lists have been revised downward, too often halved. But it is a small step toward recovery -- a path toward recuperation.

What these children do not recognize, but will ultimately benefit from, is that 353rd Special Operations Group Airmen, from Kadena Air Base, Japan, have mobilized for war.

The alarm has been sounded and the battle staff formed on a neighboring island less than an hour away. More than 150 Airmen here work tirelessly to deliver relief aid straight into the backyard of the victims.

About 44 tons of medicine, blankets, food and water have been delivered into Banda Aceh every day since this unit arrived in Malaysia on Jan. 2. Aircrews from the 1st Special Operations Squadron and 17th SOS have urgency in their eyes. They transform dreams of relief into life-saving emergency supplies available now. Because they are trained to fly at night, the Airmen deliver ton after ton into Banda Aceh before the sun rises. The uniquely capable special operations aircraft allow delivery in poor weather and with no direct air control. Similarly, teams of medical professionals representing the global effort are flown without regard to affiliation or national origin. All are carried north from Medan, the central humanitarian hub to the shattered regions of Banda Aceh.

Communicators have established reach-back abilities to coordinate with leaders in Thailand, Japan and beyond. Aerial delivery support specialists maneuver unfamiliar forklifts to unload foreign critical disaster response teams and their equipment. Combat controllers manage airfields where the volume of traffic has increased 100-fold. Planners work tirelessly to maximize the effectiveness of precious cargo. Countless others, like logisticians, weather forecasters, ramp coordinators and more, work toward the same goal -- reduce the suffering and facilitate reconstruction, officials said.

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