Pilot of First Bur­ma Relief Mis­sion Describes Expe­ri­ence

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

WASHINGTON, May 14, 2008 — The Air Force pilot who flew the first U.S. relief flight to Bur­ma said today that, while he and his crew were received warm­ly, it was clear to him that more relief is needed. 

“Every­one … was so ecsta­t­ic or excit­ed to have us there on the ground,” Capt. Trevor Hall said dur­ing a tele­con­fer­ence with online jour­nal­ists and “blog­gers.” “With very lit­tle bro­ken Eng­lish that we could make out, they were try­ing to say, ‘Please bring more; please bring more.’ ” 

Hall was the pilot in com­mand of the C‑130E Her­cules trans­port air­craft that flew the first U.S. emer­gency relief sup­plies into Ran­goon Inter­na­tion­al Air­port in Bur­ma. The sup­plies were to assist with the recov­ery from the dev­as­ta­tion that Cyclone Nar­gis wrought over much of Burma’s Irrawad­dy Riv­er delta May 2. 

“On board the plane, we took about 30,000 pounds of bot­tled water, mos­qui­to nets and blan­kets for the first plane in,” Hall said. 

He said the offload at the air­port took two hours. 

“The first hour was spent unload­ing all the sup­plies that we brought in, because [the Burmese mil­i­tary] did have to hand-offload all of the car­go,” Hall said. “They offloaded it all direct­ly off our plane and placed it into mil­i­tary trucks and drove it to a dif­fer­ent stag­ing area on the airport. 

“When we land­ed, I did­n’t exact­ly know what to expect as far as what else would be on the ramp at the air­port,” he added. 

When the U.S. air­crew land­ed, they saw a Hel­lenic Air Force C‑130 plane from Greece, two Malaysian C‑130s, and some Indi­an planes, as well. 

Fol­low­ing the first relief flight May 12, Hall said, the U.S. Marine Corps trans­port­ed sim­i­lar items yes­ter­day, and more relief flights are con­tin­u­ing today. “The stuff that they were car­ry­ing today was med­ical sup­plies, plas­tic sheet­ing, hygiene kits, some food, and first-aid mate­r­i­al,” said Hall. 

The Air Force crew, con­sist­ing of six basic crew mem­bers and two main­tain­ers, flew from the Uta­pao Roy­al Thai Navy air base, in Thai­land. Navy Adm. Tim­o­thy J. Keat­ing, com­man­der of U.S. Pacif­ic Com­mand, and Hen­ri­et­ta Fore, head of the U.S. Agency for Inter­na­tion­al Devel­op­ment, accom­pa­nied the crew on the mission. 

After land­ing at the air­port, Keat­ing, Fore and a mem­ber of Thailand’s gov­ern­ment met with Burmese gov­ern­ment offi­cials, Hall said. After their two-hour meet­ing, the crew returned to Bangkok, Thai­land, where Keat­ing and Fore con­tin­ued to coor­di­nate fur­ther relief efforts. 

Hall said Keating’s vis­it with the Burmese gov­ern­ment offi­cials was to assure them that U.S. inten­tions are to help them. 

“He went in specif­i­cal­ly to nego­ti­ate with the gov­ern­ment to fig­ure out exact­ly what they would allow us to do,” Hall said. 

Before assist­ing with the relief efforts, Hall, assigned to 36th Air­lift Squadron at Yoko­ta Air Base in Tokyo, was on assign­ment in Thai­land par­tic­i­pat­ing in a U.S. Marine Corps exer­cise. “We were already in Thai­land sup­port­ing a Marine exer­cise called Cobra Gold, and we were get­ting ready to go back home to Tokyo when all this kind of kicked off,” he said. 

Hall not­ed that the air­crew had been stand­ing by on alert for 10 days, ready to go at a moment’s notice. 

“We were received very gra­cious­ly. … Obvi­ous­ly, [the Burmese mil­i­tary] knew we were com­ing, and they were plan­ning for us,” he said. 

Hall said he believes Ran­goon Inter­na­tion­al Air­port could eas­i­ly acco­mo­date one of the larg­er C‑17 Globe­mas­ter III or KC-10 Exten­der trans­port jets each hour, but might have dif­fi­cul­ties offload­ing them. 

“There would be no prob­lems with han­dling the large amounts of traf­fic or even ramp space. The one prob­lem they would have, though, is their offload capa­bil­i­ty is very lim­it­ed,” he explained. “They did­n’t have, for instance, fork­lifts or any type of equip­ment that was real­ly need­ed to offload our plane, and the plane end­ed [up hav­ing] to be hand-offloaded.” 

Dur­ing their flight to Ran­goon, the crew flew over the cyclone-dev­as­tat­ed area and saw the results firsthand. 

“The major­i­ty of our route, once we crossed over the bor­der, you could see the amount of dev­as­ta­tion that the coun­try had to face,” he said. “There was a mas­sive amount of flood­ing [and] lots of stand­ing water. 

“Many trees had been tossed over, and hous­es … had been knocked down,” he con­tin­ued. “And obvi­ous­ly, from our per­spec­tive, it looked like not much had been done to real­ly get it cleaned out at this time.” 

Hall said that dur­ing the flight crew’s descent to the air­port — at about 1,000 to 2,000 feet — they noticed a lot of main roads around the air­port, but saw only saw one truck on the road, indi­cat­ing con­tin­ued obsta­cles to mas­sive relief efforts. 

“Based on what I saw, I real­ly don’t think they have the infra­struc­ture. … It would take a lot of peo­ple and resources to dis­trib­ute it the way it needs to be dis­trib­uted,” he said. 

Hall was born in St. Louis Park, Minn., but grew up in Rig­by, Ida­ho, a small town out­side of Ida­ho Falls, Ida­ho. He earned his com­mis­sion through the U.S. Air Force Academy. 

(Navy Lt. Jen­nifer Cragg works for the New Media branch of Amer­i­can Forces Infor­ma­tion Service.) 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist GlobalDefence.net im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. GlobalDefence.net war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →