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Homeland Security

Airmen wrap up relief efforts in Pacific

by Staff Sgt. LuCelia Ball
Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs

10/20/2009 - HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii (AFNS) -- Airmen providing humanitarian assistance following the recent natural disasters in the Pacific have wrapped up their efforts and are returning home, Pacific Air Forces officials here said Oct. 19.

The missions began Sept. 30 when Hawaii Air National Guard crews flew two C-17 Globemaster IIIs loaded with relief supplies and a multiagency contingency to American Samoa after the island was struck by an earthquake one day prior.

The 8.0 magnitude quake generated 15-foot waves and destroyed entire villages.

The relief operation was a joint military effort shared by personnel from the 15th Airlift Wing, 735th Air Mobility Squadron and the 154th Medical Group of the Hawaii Air National Guard; and the Hawaii National Guard chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high yield explosives enhanced response force.

Over the course of 11 days, 17 C-17 sorties delivered 212 passengers and 632.5 short tons of cargo in an effort to assist the citizens of the island.

"(The C-17s) have a tremendous capability in moving both people and equipment in support of humanitarian outreach, to not only deliver supplies that range from medical to blankets and tents to generators, jeeps and trucks, but also delivering our nation's military and civilian professionals who can provide the skills so necessary following a disaster," said Gen. Gary North, the PACAF commander.

The American Samoa effort was soon followed by the deployment of a 68-member humanitarian assistance rapid response team to Indonesia. The team departed Oct. 5 from Japan and Guam on two C-17s to provide disaster relief following an earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale. The quake struck West Sumatra province Sept. 30 near Padang, and several strong aftershocks followed causing major damage and loss of life.

The team included Airmen from Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska; Hickam AFB, Hawaii; Andersen AFB, Guam; and Yokota Air Base, Japan, and included a surgical team capable of providing specialized care to approximately 300 patients a day. After the set up of a field hospital, more than 1,900 patients were treated.

The Pacific Air Forces' humanitarian assistance rapid response team was developed by 13th Air Force officials here to provide a rapidly deployable team that provides medical assistance in the event of a natural disaster in the Asia-Pacific region. The concept was operationally field tested just 22 days prior to the Indonesian earthquake.

"This is something we've done year in and year out in the Pacific," General North said. "Delivering equipment and putting Airmen on the ground, doing what must be done to provide immediate humanitarian response/support necessary to save life and limb, as well as the follow-on capacity. We're very proud of our Airmen and how they respond."

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