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Homeland Security

U.S. Military Airlift Capability Key Following Indonesian Earthquake

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS091013-01
Release Date: 10/13/2009 7:24:00 AM

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Greg Johnson, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet Public Affairs

PADANG, Indonesia (NNS) -- Getting more than 60 tons of urgently needed supplies to some of the most remote mountain villages in Southeast Asia has been a tremendous challenge for relief agencies responding to the earthquakes that rocked Sumatra Sept. 30.

The solution: CH-53E Sea Stallion helicopters assigned to Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM) 265. During a mission Oct. 12, Marines, Sailors and Soldiers delivered 45 "ShelterBoxes," donated by the ShelterBox organization. The ShelterBoxes, which each contain a tent, blankets, kitchenware, tools, a water purification kit can sustain a family for several weeks.

Rear Adm. Richard Landolt, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet, flew on one of the missions to oversee the complex process of landing helicopters under difficult conditions.

"That was the first remote mission I've had the opportunity to be on since we've started, and I have to say, that was some very impressive flying," said Landolt. "They got in and out of a tight spot and made it look easy."

Pilots landed the helicopter on a peak nestled in the mountains of Western Sumatra, where villagers had drawn a white "H" on the ground. Service members and ShelterBox volunteers were greeted with smiling faces.

"I am so happy to see the helicopters coming here now," said Atin Nasution, a village resident. "Many people lost their homes during the earthquake, so I believe the supplies they brought here today will help many people."

The ShelterBox organization has relied predominantly on the U.S. and Australian militaries to transport the units.

"It's been invaluable having the U.S. military involved," said Becky Maynard, a ShelterBox program manager. "It would have taken four days for us to determine who needed help and who didn't, but with the U.S. military, we cut it down to just one day."

Amphibious Force 7th Fleet is coordinating U.S. military assistance to victims of the recent earthquakes in West Sumatra, at the request of the Indonesian government.

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