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14 January 2005

U.S. Military Tsunami Relief Mission in Asia Has Not Yet Peaked

Admiral Guillory says deliveries now based on local assessments

By Jacquelyn S. Porth
Washington File Security Staff Writer

Washington -- Rear Admiral Victor Guillory says there are signs that the humanitarian relief operation in Southeast Asia is shifting from pushing huge amounts of water, food and medicine into the region to one that represents a more “surgical delivery” of items based upon updated assessments conducted locally.

Guillory, who is the deputy commander of U.S. naval forces assigned to Combined Support Force 536 (CSF-536), spoke to reporters at the Pentagon January 14 via video conference from Utapao, Thailand.  He said it would be premature to suggest that “Operation Unified Assistance” has peaked.

“I believe that we’re moving from a, perhaps, supply-based strategy of pushing immediate relief supplies to the people that need food, water and medicine,” he said, “to more of a [case of] demand that represents the product of assessments [by] government and non-government organizations, and basically providing the sort of surgical delivery that is more in tune with where we are in the operations.”

Guillory said there are 24 Navy ships and one Coast Guard vessel providing humanitarian relief and disaster assistance with the USS Fort McHenry, an amphibious landing ship loaded with reconstruction material, being the latest to arrive on the scene from Japan.  The deputy commander said the United States has a tremendous sea-based capability in the region to provide support needed for the relief effort.  Additionally, the USNS Mercy, a huge hospital ship, is steaming to the region to address host nations’ requirements, according to the Navy official.

Guillory said CSF-536 has distributed 2,700,000 pounds of relief supplies.  He also said more than 15,000 military personnel are supporting the relief effort to deliver tons of necessities to the tsunami-affected region.  Additional information is available in a U.S. Pacific Command fact sheet summarizing U.S. military relief efforts on the Internet at http://www.pacom.mil/special/0412asia/factsheet.html

Guillory said ships from various other nations have also moved into the region in the past week or so, and aircraft from various nations, including Russia and Malaysia, are hauling in relief supplies.  It is all part of an overall, combined effort, he said.

Representatives from a half-dozen nations meet at CSF-536 headquarters in Utapao every day to coordinate, cooperate and achieve consensus, according to Tom Fry of the U.S. Agency for International Development.  Fry, who is part of AID’s Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART), said the host nation has the lead in articulating their needs “and if we can meet them we’ll … do that.”

Fry said the United States has already turned over to the United Nations and nongovernmental organizations nearly $92 million of its $350 million commitment to relief assistance.  More money will be released as subsequent proposals for relief projects are submitted, reviewed and approved, the DART official said.

Whereas much of the early financing underwrote the initial relief activities, Fry said there is now a shift toward other activities such as addressing preventative health requirements and other health-related issues.

Fry referred reporters to an AID fact sheet for a comprehensive accounting of U.S. financial and other humanitarian assistance offered to the countries of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, the Maldives, and Somalia.  This fact sheet, last updated on January 13, may be viewed on the Internet at http://www.usaid.gov/locations/asia_near_east/tsunami/Indian_Ocean_EQ_and_TS_FS18-01.13.05.pdf

A complete transcript of remarks by Fry and Guillory is available on the Defense Department’s web site at http://www.defenselink.mil/transcripts/2005/tr20050114-1984.html

For additional information, see “U.S. Response to Tsunami and Earthquake in Asia” at: http://usinfo.state.gov/gi/global_issues/recovery.html

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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