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MASH Unit Arrives in Pakistan; More Aid Flowing

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 18, 2005 – The spearhead element of Task Force 212, U.S. Army, Europe's medical response to the Oct. 8 earthquake in Pakistan, left Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 17 aboard a Russian cargo plane.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
A 5-ton truck from the 212th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in Miesau, Germany, rolls into the belly of a Russian AN-124 Condor cargo aircraft at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, on Oct. 17. The truck is being transported as part of the disaster-relief response to the Oct. 8 earthquake in Pakistan. It's pulling a trailer fitted with a mobile, self-contained, two-table operating room that will be used in the relief effort. Photo by Arthur McQueen
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The sunset takeoff of the Antonov An-124 Condor started 12 of an expected 200 soldiers and 34,000 pounds of equipment on a mission to assist Pakistan with needed medical care.

The first wave of assistance - drivers, nurses and support personnel; supply containers; three five-ton cargo trucks towing generators; and operating room containers on trailers - are deploying to Muzafarrabad, Pakistan, where task force members establish an 84-bed care facility.

Task Force 212 includes elements of the 212th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, based in Miesau, Germany; the 160th Forward Surgical Team, based in Landstuhl, Germany; and the 123rd Main Support Battalion, 1st Armored Division, based in Dexheim, Germany.

"We are part of a larger operation," said the 212th MASH commander, Army Col. Angel Lugo, who also commands the task force. "The 212th remains at a high state of readiness. We are ready to provide the type of support needed. The 123rd will provide a water purification detachment, which can take water from almost any source and make it potable."

Several translators from Army units stationed in Europe also will support the relief effort.

Army Brig. Gen. Carla Hawley-Bowland, commander of Europe Regional Medical Command, visited Lugo and his soldiers at the staging area here.

"We are proud of you and your efforts," Hawley-Bowland said. "Keep your eyes and ears open. We are ready to adapt to whatever assistance is needed by the Pakistanis."

Pakistani officials said the earthquake killed more than 54,000 people. Many thousands were hurt and around 1 million Pakistanis are homeless as a result of the 7.6-magnitude quake.

U.S. Army helicopters rushed to the area and began providing aid and search-and-rescue capabilities. Twelve U.S. helicopters are operating in the area with nine more en route. Around 400 U.S. servicemembers are providing ground support for the effort.

Pentagon officials said U.S. airmen have delivered 621 short tons of material to the stricken areas. In addition to helicopter deliveries, U.S. aircraft have planned for two airdrops of supplies to remote areas. Rain, hail and high winds have hampered operations in the region.

Two Army heavy engineer battalions have been alerted for deployment to Pakistan. The units will help clear roads, reinforce bridges and repair communications.

The USS Pearl Harbor has unloaded earthquake relief supplies and equipment, such as bulldozers, in the port city of Karachi. The SS Northern Lights, a ship under contract to the Navy, has also delivered supplies to the region.

U.S. Air Force crews are helping other nations deliver supplies, as well. On Oct. 15, an Air Force C-17 transported seven Qatari soldiers, a Qatari mobile hospital, and 90,000 pounds of cargo to Islamabad International Airport, Pakistan. The cargo included two all-terrain vehicles filled with medical equipment, a five-ton truck, a generator, and a trailer.

"It was very wonderful to go," Saeed A.N. Mohammad, a Qatari army pharmacist and nurse, said. He and three other Pakistan-natives on the team were anxious to get to Pakistan to assist in the relief efforts. The four expressed relief that their immediate families remained unharmed by the natural disaster.

For C-17 aircrew member Airman 1st Class Dan Gutowski, a loadmaster with the 15th Airlift Squadron from Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., providing support by airlift was 'just another day,' but he was ready to help.

"I know the earthquake caused a lot of damage, and the Pakistani people really need our assistance," he said. "I'm glad I'm in the position to make it happen."

Since the quake struck, C-17s have flown 938,000 pounds of cargo, 182 pallets and 69 passengers into Pakistan, said Maj. Brent Keenan, the C-17 operations commander for Detachment 2, 817th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron.

(Compiled from interviews in the Pentagon; reports by Arthur McQueen of U.S. Army, Europe, Public Affairs, and 1st Lt. Erick Saks, of 818th Contingency Response Group; and an Air Force news release.)

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