U.S. Continues to Aid Flood-Stricken Pakistanis
By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 1, 2010 Even as floodwaters begin to recede in Pakistan, the United States is continuing to rush assets there to aid the millions of people impacted by the devastating floods.
Two U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters arrived in Pakistan today as the first elements of the Army’s 16th Combat Aviation Brigade began to arrive from Fort Wainwright, Alaska. The unit and helicopters will work in concert with the Pakistani military in flood-ravaged areas, officials said.
The helicopters were delivered by an Air Force C-17 cargo aircraft that’s on standby pending the arrival of other helicopters and support personnel, officials said.
Along with the 16th CAB helicopters, 15 other U.S. military helicopters are now in Pakistan providing support. Another four Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters, from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, are scheduled to arrive later this week, officials said.
To date, U.S. military aircraft have transported more than 3 million pounds of relief supplies and rescued more than 11,000 people within Pakistan, said Air Force Lt. Col. Patrick Ryder, public affairs officer for the Office of the Defense Representative-Pakistan.
"In partnership with the Pakistani military, the U.S. military has provided a unique capability to rapidly deliver much needed aid and humanitarian assistance in support of flood relief," Ryder said.
The United States also is assisting in efforts to improve coordination between Pakistani, U.S. and international organizations. Several organizations, both military and civilian, formed a joint aviation coordination cell Aug. 28 to streamline air operations supporting flood-relief efforts.
The Pakistani-led cell consolidates air operations efforts and closes a communication gap between relief providers and organizations, officials said.
“Until we formed this coordination cell, the [various entities] weren’t able to merge together and bring that requirements and commodities picture to an organized air flow capability,” said Air Force Col. Greg Nelson, director of U.S. mobility forces for humanitarian assistance to Pakistan, based out of Chaklala, Pakistan.
The cell will increase the air delivery efficiency across the country, he said. “It’s all in support of the government of Pakistan through the [National Disaster Management Authority of Pakistan], and this cell puts the whole thing together.”
The first meeting of the JACC in Chaklala, Rawalpindi, brought together representatives from the NDMA, the Pakistan army and air force, the UN Logistics Cluster, the World Food Program and the United States. Participants discussed food and supplies, and the requirements and transportation needs of the country, as well as how to work together to better accommodate the donations, air assets and collaborators, officials said.
“It’s critically important for the flow of information so that all organizations … are led by the Pakistan government, by the National Disaster Management Authority,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Eliot Evans, of the Office of the Defense Representative Pakistan.
The JACC also offers officials an opportunity to look ahead. Until the JACC was established, the air cell was planning delivery requirements for the next 24 hours, Nelson said. “Now we’re starting to look at a week out.”
These efforts are part of overall efforts by the United States to assist Pakistan with the flooding disaster. The U.S. government is providing $200 million to assist with relief and recovery efforts, as well as in-kind and technical assistance in the form of halal, or religiously permitted, meals, pre-fabricated steel bridges and other infrastructure support.
Officials estimate that between 15 million and 20 million Pakistanis have been impacted by the flooding and about 1,500 have been killed.
U.S. officials have pledged their support for as long as the Pakistani government needs, and requests, the help.
"We're very glad to be able to assist our Pakistani friends during their time of need," Ryder said. "We will continue to support Pakistan's relief efforts at the invitation and request of the government of Pakistan as long as they need us."