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U.S. European Command Delivers Aid to Georgia

By Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 28, 2008 – The Defense Department and U.S. European Command stand ready to assist as required to save lives and alleviate human suffering during the humanitarian crisis in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, a senior EuCom official said yesterday.

“Working side by side with the republic of Georgia and international organizations, U.S. European Command is providing immediate life-saving support and restoring essential life-support systems as part of a coordinated interagency effort,” Michael Ritchie, EuCom’s director of interagency engagement, said in a teleconference with bloggers and online journalists to discuss the relief effort dubbed Operation Assured Delivery.

Operation Assured Delivery is the DoD effort executed by EuCom in support of and in coordination with the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, Ritchie explained. EuCom’s Interagency Engagement Group is the focal point for this interagency coordination, he said.

More than 100,000 people in the area of the Georgian capital of Tbilisi have been displaced during the conflict with Russia over two disputed Georgian provinces, Ritchie said, and USAID is working with an estimated 160 U.S.-based nongovernmental organizations in Georgia.

“The USAID-funded feeding programs are taking care of those people who are on the move and headed back to their homes,” he said. “They are the ones that are doing the delivering, primarily in the Tbilisi area where many persons were displaced, but it's also going into other areas as well within the republic of Georgia.”

Along with the humanitarian assistance, EuCom assessment teams are in Georgia examining the infrastructure to see what was damaged.

Army Gen. Bantz J. Craddock, EuCom commander, visited Georgia last week to get a first-hand perspective of the relief effort.

"We have to get it right so we can help people quickly,” he said during his visit. “We want to optimize the humanitarian aid effort and bring in the right stuff, to the right place at the right time.”

Since Aug. 13, Operation Assured Delivery has resulted in more than 2 million pounds of food, water, bedding and medical supplies -- nearly $21 million worth -- being delivered to the Georgian people in need, Ritchie said.

Ritchie added that in this week alone, EuCom flights have delivered 25,000 daily rations and 31,000 prepared meals to displaced persons and people in need. “Every item delivered was requested by USAID and validated by the government of Georgia,” he said.

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Dallas arrived Aug. 27 to the Georgian port of Batumi, which currently provides an established distribution hub to quickly dispense the aid.

Dallas is deployed to the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations, and is part of the larger maritime force offering humanitarian assistance. “It is fortunate to us that the Dallas happened to be in the European theater,” Ritchie said. “This is the kind of thing for which the Coast Guard has a great deal of experience, and we're proud to have them as part of the 6th fleet team that's providing this assistance.”

While in Batumi, Dallas offloaded 80 pallets with more than 76,000 pounds of humanitarian assistance supplies. The goods include hygiene items, food, milk and juices.

The first ship to dispense humanitarian assistance was USS McFaul, which arrived in Batumi on Aug. 24, delivering 155,000 pounds of aid. USS Mount Whitney is scheduled to deploy for Georgia at the end of the month with more supplies.

(Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg works for the New Media directorate of the Defense Media Activity.)

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