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Air Force Delivers Humanitarian Aid to Georgia

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 13, 2008 – A U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft will touch down today in Tbilisi, Georgia, delivering the first of what may turn into many planeloads of humanitarian relief to the nation, Defense Department officials said today.

The C-17 is from the 305th Air Mobility Wing at McGuire Air Force Base, N.J.

“The aircraft will be carrying medical supplies, shelters, bedding -- those types of things,” Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said. “That will be the first flight in; there are plans for another flight tomorrow as we continue to assess the wide range of humanitarian assistance options that we might be able to provide both in the immediate and long-term humanitarian capabilities.”

A military assessment team will arrive soon to assess the Georgian government’s humanitarian needs. The 12-man team will act as a liaison among the U.S. Embassy in Georgia, the Georgian government, and U.S. European Command and other U.S. agencies. The team contains experts in a number of civil affairs fields, Pentagon officials said. Many have recent experience in Georgia and can help to determine what capabilities the United States has that the Georgians may need.

“We’re looking at a broader range of assets and capabilities that we might bring to bear on the humanitarian need there,” Whitman said.

The amount and nature of the aid will grow as the assessment team delivers its reports, he said.

Defense Department officials will look at assistance options are available,” Whitman said. This ultimately could include ships delivering humanitarian goods to the nation.

The United States has notified the Russian government of what it’s doing, Whitman said.

The aid flight signals America’s strong commitment to Georgia, Whitman said. “We’ve had a strong relationship with Georgia for many years now,” he added.

The C-17 was in the air this morning as President Bush announced the aid flights and reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to Georgia.

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