PYONGTAEK, South Korea — The U.S. Army in South Korea has sent a small cargo plane to Indonesia to help the U.S. military commander directing humanitarian relief efforts in the tsunami-stricken South Asia region, officials said Thursday.

A C-12U Huron twin-engine turboprop, of the Army’s 17th Aviation Brigade, left Thursday morning from Seoul Air Base, also known as K-16.

It’s to help ferry key people, supplies and equipment around the disaster area, said Army Lt. Col. Thomas Budzyna, 8th U.S. Army spokesman.

The C-12 will support Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Robert Blackman, commander of Combined Task Force 536, which oversees the military side of international relief efforts in the region, Budzyna said.

“That will be kind of his plane for special visitors or staff,” Budzynasaid. “If he has to ferry special parts, or there’s a particular medical emergency, that plane can be used, to either deliver a patient or exchange medical supplies over long distances that are inappropriate for a helicopter . … That is what the aircraft is designed for.”

Aboard the plane Thursday, in addition to two U.S. Army pilots, were two civilian maintenance specialists, Budzyna said.

Meanwhile, as of Thursday night, Army helicopters and several hundred South Korea-based Army and Air Force personnel, who had been ordered earlier this month to prepare for a South Asia deployment, remained in South Korea, ready to leave if ordered, he said.

They included eight CH-47 Chinook heavy lift helicopters and about 125 soldiers of the 17th Aviation Brigade; another 200 soldiers of a “dustoff,” or medical evacuation helicopter unit, of the 18th Medical Command; and 24 field engineers of the U.S. 7th Air Force’s 554th Red Horse Squadron at Osan Air Base.

“Clearly, the officials in the region are assessing what is exactly needed and where certain capabilities can be used,” said Budzyna. “And once they can confirm country clearances and the capabilities that are needed, they may still call upon the 8th Army units to participate. But we are still awaiting clarification and official deployment orders.”

The C-12, part of the U.S.-based Company A, 6th Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment, is attached to the Korea-based 1 Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment, part of the 17th Aviation Brigade.

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