U.S. Military Boosts Pakistan Aid Capabilities

GHAZI AVIATION BASE, Pak­istan, Sept. 2, 2010 — The U.S. mil­i­tary is boost­ing its flood-relief capa­bil­i­ties to Pak­istan by deploy­ing more air­craft and increas­ing the num­ber of aid dis­tri­b­u­tion sta­tions in the flood-strick­en nation, the Pak­istan aid task force com­man­der said here yes­ter­day.

We are on the verge of mak­ing a sub­stan­tial change in the com­po­si­tion of our avi­a­tion task force,” said Army Brig. Gen. Michael Naga­ta, Office of the Defense Rep­re­sen­ta­tive – Pak­istan (For­ward) com­man­der.

Naga­ta said the num­ber of U.S. heli­copters in Pak­istan will almost dou­ble in com­ing weeks, as 18 Army heli­copters from the 1st Bat­tal­ion, 52nd Avi­a­tion Reg­i­ment, 16th Com­bat Avi­a­tion Brigade arrive. Since ear­ly August, U.S. mil­i­tary heli­copters have been oper­at­ing from Ghazi Avi­a­tion Base here, pro­vid­ing relief sup­plies to the remote Swat Val­ley in north­ern Pak­istan where many bridges on the val­ley floor were washed away by the flood.

Naga­ta said the incom­ing Army heli­copters will con­tin­ue the Swat Val­ley relief mis­sion. Marine and Navy heli­copters from the 15th Marine Expe­di­tionary Unit cur­rent­ly oper­at­ing from the avi­a­tion base here will be relo­cat­ed to an avi­a­tion base in the south of the coun­try in coor­di­na­tion with the gov­ern­ment and mil­i­tary of Pak­istan.

These heli­copters will soon begin relief oper­a­tions in south­ern Pak­istan,” Naga­ta said. “They will con­tin­ue the great work they have done up here to help peo­ple in a new area who have been dev­as­tat­ed by the flood.”

The Army heli­copters, pre­dom­i­nant­ly CH-47 Chi­nook car­go heli­copters, are well suit­ed to the high alti­tudes of the Swat Val­ley, the gen­er­al said.

Naga­ta said the U.S. mil­i­tary has over the past week worked with the gov­ern­ment of Pak­istan to max­i­mize cur­rent assets by select­ing sev­er­al new sites for relief deliv­er­ies and dis­tri­b­u­tion.

Marine and Air Force C-130 car­go air­planes are deliv­er­ing food and fuel into areas of north­ern Pak­istan at air­fields in Gilgit and Skar­du.

We hope to increase the vol­ume of these C-130 deliv­er­ies at the request of the gov­ern­ment of Pak­istan in com­ing days and weeks,” Naga­ta said.

Addi­tion­al­ly, the heli­copters based at Ghazi have expand­ed oper­a­tions into Kohis­tan. One stop in Kohis­tan is the small town of Otero, nes­tled deep in the moun­tains and acces­si­ble by a sin­gle-lane road that was severe­ly dam­aged by the floods. Although flood­ing has large­ly sub­sided in the north­ern region of the coun­try, the dam­age to infra­struc­ture makes con­tin­ued relief mis­sions vital.

Otero “is com­plete­ly cut off from the rest of civ­i­liza­tion,” Naga­ta said. “We made five runs into Otero yes­ter­day, deliv­er­ing on the order of 30,000 pounds of relief sup­plies and recov­er­ing sev­er­al hun­dred peo­ple out of the town. It’s emblem­at­ic of how deep the need is and how dev­as­tat­ed these areas are.”

The gen­er­al cred­it­ed the U.S. mil­i­tary heli­copter pilots for “extra­or­di­nar­i­ly skill­ful fly­ing” as they braved chal­leng­ing land­ing zones to deliv­er bad­ly need­ed relief sup­plies to Otero.

Naga­ta said the flight tem­po “remains high” since Pak­istan relief oper­a­tions began last month. More than 2 mil­lion pounds of relief sup­plies have been flown into Pak­istan, he said, not­ing 8,000 Pak­ista­nis have been res­cued by the heli­copters cur­rent­ly at Ghazi. The heli­copters are from of the 15th Marine Expe­di­tionary Unit and con­sist of Navy MH-53 Sea Drag­ons, Marine CH-53 Sea Stal­lions and CH-46 Sea Knights.

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