By Master Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol, Air Mobility Command Public Affairs
/ Published September 07, 2010
SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- In an American Forces Press Service news report Sept. 3, U.S. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said of the Pakistan floods, "The pictures [and] reporting just don't capture it."
Admiral Mullen said those words after he visited on-going relief operations in Pakistan in early September. While there, he also visited with military members, to include mobility Airmen, in the country supporting the aid effort.
Among the Airmen deployed to Pakistan include about 30 members from Air Mobility Command's 818th Contingency Response Group, 621st Contingency Response Wing, at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. They deployed to the region as a contingency response element, or CRE, on Aug. 28 to Chaklala Air Force Base to the Pakistan Air Force's Central Flood Relief Cell, and have been continuously supporting the flow of aid. The CRE is a smaller, more mobile version of a CRG.
"Anytime that the people of the United States see other citizens of the world in dire need, we have historically always felt the need to assist," Lt. Col. Shawn Underwood, CRE commander said in a news report Sept. 1 shortly after arriving. "Coming here is doing the work of the American people, and it's fulfilling a promise that we've made to ourselves to be good citizens of the world. And to me, being personally involved is a very humbling experience."
The CRE Airmen aren't the only mobility Airmen supporting the effort. Airmen from across the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility and throughout the Air Force globally have been involved in the effort since the floods began affecting the country in late-July.
Daily, C-130 Hercules aircraft and aircrews flying them are moving aid into the country. For example, on Sept. 7, Pakistan's National Disaster Management Authority Web site reported there were C-130 sorties dispatched to carry tents, water, food and clothes to affected areas. Airmen flying the C-130 missions are also part of a Total Force team to include active duty, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Airmen.
Lt. Col. Robert McCrady, deputy commander of the 386th Expeditionary Operations Group at a non-disclosed base in Southwest Asia who forward-deployed to aid in the C-130 operation in Pakistan, may have described it best for all the C-130 Airmen.
"These floods are the worst to hit Pakistan in more than 80 years, and the Pakistanis desperately need our help," Colonel McCrady said in an Aug. 30 news report by 386th AEW Public Affairs right before he went to Pakistan. "We'll be working with other units to provide that assistance wherever it's needed. The C-130 is an outstanding aircraft for this sort of mission because it can carry everything from food and water to rolling stock and portable clinics. It also has the capability to land on dirt strips in austere environments, should the need arise."
Other mobility Airmen supporting the effort include Airmen flying C-17 Globemaster III aircraft. On Sept. 1, two C-17s from the 517th Airlift Squadron of Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, arrived in Pakistan with members from the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade from Fort Wainwright, Alaska. The planes carried two UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters along with personnel who are aiding with relief efforts.
Back in the U.S. at Scott AFB, the people behind coordinating intra-theater airlift and air refueling support for the Pakistan effort are at the 618th Air and Space Operations Center (Tanker Airlift Control Center). Functional air operations centers like the 618th AOC (TACC) support functional combatant commanders by providing specific capabilities all over the world including air mobility, space operations, global strike and special operations support, the 618th Web site shows.
Above all, the support for Pakistan by mobility Airmen is part of a larger, overall international effort. Besides the Air Force participation, service members and other support personnel from the Army, Navy and Marine Corps are all part of the effort.
On Sept. 2, a Department of Defense report from Ghazi Aviation Base, Pakistan, said the U.S. is continuing to boost its aid effort support and mobility Airmen are a part of the effort. The report said the number of U.S. helicopters in Pakistan will almost double in coming weeks to as 18 Army helicopters from the 16th CAB continue to arrive there via airlift assets. Officials are also hoping to increase C-130 sorties as Marine Corps and Air Force C-130s are deliver cargo into northern Pakistan.
"We hope to increase the volume of these C-130 deliveries at the request of the government of Pakistan in coming days and weeks," Army Brig. Gen. Michael Nagata, from the Office of the Defense Representative - Pakistan (Forward) commander, said in the report.
As of Sept. 4, a U.S. State Department news report said, "the United States has responded immediately and generously to Pakistan's call for assistance following the tragic and devastating floods that began July 29. This includes $167 million to support immediate relief efforts in Pakistan, through the Pakistan National Disaster Management Authority, the UN's emergency response plan, and many other local and international organizations. An additional $50 million has been allocated for initial recovery efforts to assist with rebuilding communities impacted by the floods. Therefore, the United States Government is now providing $217 million to assist with relief and recovery efforts, which does not include considerable in-kind and technical assistance specifically to address the impact of these floods."
(Army Master Sgt. Mark Swart, Joint Public Affairs Support Element; Mr. John D. Banusiewicz, American Forces Press Service; Maj. Dale Greer, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs; Capt. Justin Brockhoff, 618th AOC (TACC) Public Affairs; and Staff Sgt. Kali Gradishar, Air Forces Central Public Affairs, contributed to this story.)