Charleston airlift capabilities bring humanitarian aid to Pakistan
Posted 8/20/2010 Updated 8/20/2010 Email story Print story
by Senior Airman Dani Shea
Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs
8/20/2010 - JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. -- U.S. Forces have diligently responded to the call for aid from the Government of Pakistan in light of the tragic and devastating floods resulting from the country's overwhelming monsoon season. Team Charleston Airmen currently deployed to the 817th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, have already had a hand in the humanitarian relief effort and now, aircrews from here at home station are stepping up to provide the much needed airlift support.
The 437th Operations Group here received word from the 618th Tanker Airlift Control Center out of Scott Air Force Base, Ill., Thursday that helicopters and troops stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., were in need of airlift to the area of responsibility of Afghanistan to aid in the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts currently taking place in Pakistan.
"This, as with all missions, requires a complex orchestration of teamwork from a variety of organizations. The 618th TACC tasked us to provide aircraft and aircrews - at the same time they are planning flight routing, obtaining diplomatic clearances, finalizing load plans, obtaining air refueling if required, coordinating with the 'customer' and analyzing weather," said Lt. Col. Kenneth Norris, 437th OG current operations chief. "We at current operations assigned the mission to the 14th Airlift Squadron who then had to schedule and prepare aircrew members."
In January, Joint Base Charleston was the hub for humanitarian operations in support of the Haitian earthquake; it was only natural for Air Mobility Command to call upon Charleston once again to support the floods in Pakistan. Throughout the past six months surge operations in support of Afghanistan have been a way of life for Joint Base Charleston and AMC. This mission is what Team Charleston is all about.
"The 437th Airlift Wing is supporting the ongoing mission of providing humanitarian relief to those in Pakistan affected by the recent floods," said Col. John Wood, 437 AW commander. "While the missions that left today are the first from this base, the 15th Airlift Squadron, which is currently deployed as part of the 817 EAS, has been supporting this mission since Aug. 2. This wing has a strong commitment to humanitarian support and we will continue to provide support as long as we are needed."
Two Charleston-based C-17 Globemaster IIIs, each equipped with a 5-man aircrew, will carry helicopters and troops from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., to the AOR.
Because of high ops tempo, Charleston is using all resources available to accomplish this special tasking in the humanitarian assistance effort. Capt. William Medlicott, who typically serves as the 437th Operations Group executive here, put on his 'aircraft commander hat' to aid this mission with the 14th Airlift Squadron here.
"We are only a small piece of this humanitarian operation. The Marines that we deliver will be providing the actual humanitarian relief. We are expected to travel from here to Cherry Point to pick up support; we'll perform an in-air refuel en route to Germany, then on to the AOR to drop off the helicopters and troops before we finally head back here to Charleston. All in all, we're looking at about a 22 hour duty day," said Capt. Medlicott. "But this is why I joined the Air Force. This is what AMC does; combat delivery of cargo and troops around the world at a moment's notice."
The support from MCAS Cherry Point comes in the form of four Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters and about 70 Marines who serve as their pilots, crew and maintainers who are deploying as part of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
"The Marine Corps and Air Force are working in partnership to get these heavy-lift helicopters into the relief area as soon as possible," said Marine Corps Staff Sergeant Christopher Flurry, MCAS Cherry Point Joint Public Affairs. "The remaining 26th MEU Marines -- a force of about 2,000 -- are scheduled to travel by ship to meet the aviation assets in theater, where they will join a much larger U.S. force working in partnership with the government of Pakistan to provide relief."
The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit is actually deploying about a month ahead of its previously scheduled departure to provide as immediate support as possible for the relief efforts in Pakistan.
According to Pakistan's National Disaster Management Authority, the floods of the 2010 monsoon season have exceeded the magnitude of all recent disasters in Pakistan, including the 1929 floods and 2005 earthquake, particularly in terms of the size of the affected populations and widespread damage. The floods have affected more than 13 million countrywide, including 1,600 dead, more than 11,000 injured and an estimated one million people displaced.
Per the Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs, flood relief support to Pakistan from the United States is a government and interagency response. Relief efforts are being coordinated through the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, in full consultation with the Pakistan government, including Pakistan's NDMA and other agencies. The U.S. military will support the relief effort at the invitation and request of the GoP as long as needed.