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Airmen offload 250th Pakistan relief aircraft

by 1st Lt. Erick Saks
818th Contingency Response Group Public Affairs

12/1/2005 - ISLAMABAD, Pakistan AFPN) -- The Air Force unloaded the 250th aircraft taking part in Operation Lifeline -- the humanitarian relief mission providing aid to the people hit by a 7.6 magnitude earthquake here in early October.

The Idaho Air National Guard C-130 Hercules, arrived Nov. 29 at Chaklala Air Base from Afghanistan. It brought in five pallets of medical supplies and other humanitarian relief materials. 

The Airmen of the 818th Contingency Response and 24th Air Expeditionary groups handle all U.S aid and much of the international aid arriving at Chaklala. The groups make up an Air Force quick response unit created for the quick offload of cargo in nearly any environment, said Col. David Wise, the unit operations officer.

“We are the equivalent of a SWAT team (as) compared to everyday police officers,”  Colonel Wise said. “You call in the SWAT team to handle a crushing situation -- and that’s what we had here."

The colonel said that’s an important analogy because "we come trained and equipped as a team -- so the efficiencies are just there. We were able to move in quickly and effectively manage the cargo operations.”

Since unit arrived in Pakistan Oct. 11, it has moved nearly 14.5 million pounds of humanitarian cargo. That included more than 7,200 boxes of food, 2,200 boxes of medicine, 1,500 boxes of water, 12,000 boxes of blankets, 4,600 sleeping bags and 4,500 tents. 

Airmen also offloaded humanitarian cargo from more than 20 countries, including Germany, Australia, England, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

Col. Richard Walberg, the unit's commander, said the international support for the Pakistani people is a powerful gesture.

“Right here, right now -- there are no artificial lines on a map,” Colonel Walberg said . “There are humans in need, and the rest of humanity is rushing to help.”

Master Sgt. Perry O’Brien, the unit's aerial port operations superintendent, said teamwork and drawing from each others’ experiences have been the keys in safely moving the huge amount of cargo.

“You’ve got a lot of different people with a lot of different experiences which we pool together and draw on to teach the others,” Sergeant O’Brien said.

At 19, Airman 1st Class Troy Engstrom is the youngest member of the air transportation team. While he’s far from home, he is proud to be supporting the Pakistani people.

“Most of the time, we just put cargo on a plane and that’s the last we hear about it," he said. "But on this trip, we know how much of a direct influence we’re having on the people getting it.

"I’m definitely glad I was chosen for this trip," the Airman said. "We’re doing a lot of good here."

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