U.S. Military Assisting Pakistani Earthquake Victims
By Petty Officer 2nd Class Cassandra Thompson, USN
Special to American Forces Press Service
MANAMA, Bahrain, Oct. 16, 2005 The U.S. military continues ferrying food, water, clothing, medicine, tents and other essential life-saving supplies to Pakistani earthquake victims.
The American relief effort includes two U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster 3s and three C-130 Hercules aircraft. They have transported more than 141,300 pounds of supplies. "Our airmen remain ready, capable, and on call to support the people of Pakistan," said Air Force officials in a statement.
Navy Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 26 (sent two aircraft and more than half of their detachment - 25 sailors -- to Pakistan on Oct. 15 and 16. They arrived with supplies in hand to support the Pakistani government's relief efforts, officials said.
On Oct. 8, Pakistan was the epicenter of a 7.6 magnitude earthquake, which has left tens of thousands of people dead and more than a million homeless. The Associated Press reported that hundreds of Pakistanis, many of them injured, are waiting at helipads in remote regions, hoping to be ferried to the capital city of Islamabad.
"We will be providing flight relief, support, water, food and shelter to distant portions of Pakistan; (and we'll be) flying to the different points most affected by the earthquake," said HSC 26 Comander Lt. Cmdr. Todd Vandegrift.
HSC 26 used U.S. Air Force C-17 aircraft to fly the helicopters and personnel to the Disaster Assistance Center in Pakistan. Vandegrift said the capabilities of his unit's MH-60 helicopters, and the proximity of the squadron to the relief center, were the reasons his unit was 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 [and] extensive search and rescue capability. [It] 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."
Vandergrift said HSC 26 will work closely with Task Force Griffin, an Army quick reaction force comprised of Chinook and Blackhawk helicopters. 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," he added.
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."
Vandergrift said his sailors also 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."
"These people need help, and it just feels good to be able to help," said Petty Officer 1st Class Jennifer Capili, a storekeeper. "A lot of people there are starving and [are] without homes."