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U.S. Navy Deploys More Helos, Personnel to Help Earthquake Victims in Pakistan

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS051017-01
Release Date: 10/17/2005 7:49:00 AM

By Journalist 2nd Class Cassandra Thompson, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet Public Affairs

MANAMA, Bahrain (NNS) -- The Desert Hawks of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 26 sent two aircraft and more than half their detachment to Pakistan Oct. 15 and 16 to help deliver medical supplies, water and tents to earthquake victims to support the government of Pakistan’s relief efforts.

HSC-26 provides logistic support to naval assets deployed in the North Persian Gulf.

In addition to providing support as part of maritime security operations in the region, Lt. Cmdr. Todd Vandegrift, officer in charge of HSC-26, said his squadron would deploy 25 Sailors and two MH-60 Black Hawk helicopters to help those in need in Pakistan.

Pakistan was the epicenter of a massive 7.6 magnitude earthquake Oct. 8 that has left thousands of people dead and millions without homes.

“We will be providing flight relief, support, water, food and shelter to distant portions of Pakistan [and] flying to different points most affected by the earthquake,” said Vandegrift.

The squadron used U.S. Air Force C-17 aircraft to fly the helicopters and personnel to the Disaster Assistance Center in Pakistan. The capabilities of the MH-60 helicopters and the proximity of the squadron to the relief center were factors in them being selected for the mission.

“[The MH-60] is the newest helicopter to the fleet,” he said. “It’s an all-weather helicopter with night vision device capability, extensive search and rescue capability and also serves as a logistics platform. Our air asset, the C-17 in this case, allows us to get there quickly to set up our operations.”

HSC-26 will work closely with Task Force Griffin, an Army quick reaction force comprised of H-47 Chinook and H-60 Blackhawk helicopters, Vandegrift said. Task Force Griffin deployed from Afghanistan to provide airlift support to the government of Pakistan.

“There are two MH-53 helicopters from Bahrain, as well,” said Vandegrift.

Vandegrift said the mission was important on both humanitarian and political levels.

“This allows the United States and the U.S. Navy to support an important ally and lend support to those in need,” he said. “It’s very uplifting to know that you can do something to help someone else.”

He said the Sailors deploying to Pakistan felt privileged to be part to the relief effort.

“I think we have great men and women in this detachment, and they were more than willing to do whatever it takes to help someone else,” Vandegrift said.

One of those Sailors, Storekeeper 1st Class Jennifer Capili from Houston, agreed that it was an honor to be part of the ongoing relief effort.

“These people need help, and it just feels good to be able to help,” she said. “A lot of people are starving there, and [are] without homes.”

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