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U.S. Military Busy Delivering Relief Aid to Disaster Victims

18 October 2005

South Asia, Central America main focus of humanitarian assistance

Washington – U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff General Michael Mosely says the reach and mobility of the Air Force allows the United States to provide aid and assistance in the wake of a humanitarian disaster more swiftly than any other nation in the world.

Currently, the U.S. military is concentrating its humanitarian assistance efforts in South Asia and Central America.

The Air Force reported that less than 48 hours after the 7.6 magnitude earthquake unleashed its force across South Asia October 8, a huge, heavy-lift C-17 Globemaster III aircraft was airborne, filled with blankets, medicine, food and water for Pakistan, India and Afghanistan.  An Air Force KC-10 Extender aircraft followed with additional disaster relief supplies.  Other cargo delivered by military planes included, among other items, forklifts to move the tons of consumables and shelter supplies to plastic sheeting to keep them dry.

The Air Force’s 7th Airlift Squadron quickly delivered 12 pallets of food, water medicine and blankets to the Chakala Air Base near Islamabad, Pakistan, on October 10, while another aircrew delivered 50 additional tons of food and shelter to the base.

These deliveries and many more prompted the director of logistics for Pakistan’s Army, Brigadier General Imtiaz Sherazi, to express his gratitude for the U.S. aid. “These items are very valuable to us,” he said, “because there are people in great distress.”

COMBAT SKILLS CHANNEL FOR AID EFFORTS

Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft were used to airdrop emergency supplies successfully into remote parts of Pakistan.  Major Chris Beck, who flew one of those missions said, “It’s rewarding to know that we can use our combat skills to drop … supplies to those in need.”

Five Army heavy-lift Ch-47 Chinook and three medium-lift UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters responded to Pakistan’s disaster assistance needs from bases in Afghanistan.  In the early days of the disaster they provided rescue, recovery and logistics assistance.

All told, 12 U.S. helicopters have carried out 168 sorties in support of the Pakistani mission and they report having rescued 2,500 individuals.  Additionally, two Navy ships have arrived in Karachi, Pakistan, bearing heavy machinery, earthquake relief equipment and other supplies.

There are plans afoot to set up a mobile Army medical facility in Pakistan to help with the injured.  The U.S. Central Command is coordinating the overall effort that includes this and many more humanitarian endeavors.

Pre-packaged ready-to-eat military meals that adhere to Islamic dietary requirements also are being airlifted into Pakistan.

The U.S. pledge to help Pakistan in concrete ways was followed by a visit of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to assess the kinds of support needed from American structural engineering experts and others. (See U.S. Response to the Earthquake in South Asia.)

U.S. MILITARY AIDS HURRICANE VICTIMS

In the first week after Hurricane Stan caused flooding and mudslides in Guatemala October 4, the U.S. military delivered more than 160 tons of food, water, medical supplies and tents to those in need.  Speaking from the Pentagon on October 17, Navy Lieutenant Commander Jeffrey Gordon said efforts to aid Guatemala still are ongoing, and that he did not know what kind of additional aid has yet to be delivered.

Gordon also said the United States had been involved in the rescue of 41 stranded people who were delivered from small villages and towns to safety in Guatemala City.  More than 100 other Guatemalans were transported around the country, primarily by 10 Army Black Hawk helicopters.  He said 134 joint U.S. service personnel, but primarily Army soldiers, have been involved in the effort to assist Guatemala. (See related article.)

The commander of the U.S. Southern Command, General Bantz Craddock, flew to Guatemala in the aftermath of the flooding to assess damage there.  He estimated that U.S. military relief efforts would continue for at least a month.  In the early days of the relief effort, Air Force C-130 transport aircraft flew in medical supplies and plastic tarps.

The U.S. Defense Department has been monitoring the disasters that have befallen Central America and South Asia in October as well as the brisk pace of the relief operations.  Relief missions -- whether with communications gear, tents or generators -- continue unabated.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said October 13 that U.S. military officials are working with their counterparts in Central American to determine what additional capabilities are needed in the wake of the hurricane, especially in Guatemala.  He said the situation is very serious there and the Southern Command is trying to help those who are suffering from a terrible tragedy.

Addressing the ramifications of the multiple natural disasters, Rumsfeld later said, “we’re going to do whatever we can to come to the aid of our good friends and allies at this time.”

The Defense Department also offered an assessment team to El Salvador, which experienced a volcanic eruption in the midst of the other disasters. 

SAVING LIVES

When the subject of U.S. military operations arises in conversations, most people think of counterinsurgency or counterterrorism missions that are ongoing in places like Iraq and Afghanistan; however, disaster relief efforts in countries like Guatemala and Pakistan are also a regular part of U.S. military actions.  The aircraft commander for one of the missions flying into Islamabad, Pakistan, Air Force Captain Andy Schwaderer, said his job has been gratifying.

“We know that what we’re doing here today is really going to benefit those in need,” he said.

An Air Force Reserve instructor pilot with the Air Mobility Command, which is the Air Force’s global crisis response force, said U.S. humanitarian aid to Pakistan is going a long way toward “building strong relationships and making history,” but more important, he added, “we’re saving lives.”

For more on U.S. relief efforts worldwide, see Humanitarian Assistance and Refugees

Additional information about the U.S. military role’s in providing humanitarian aid is available in the State Department’s November 2004 publication, Improving Lives: Military and Humanitarian Assistance Programs.

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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