86th Airlift Wing delivers relief to Algeria
Stars and Stripes June 1, 2003
The U.S. European Command, relying upon the 86th Airlift Wing at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, delivered five pallets of supplies to help Algeria struggle with the aftermath of a devastating earthquake.
“This is the sort of thing I had hoped I’d be doing,” said Air Force Capt. Michelle Mollise, co-pilot of the C-130 that flew Friday from Germany to the Algiers airport to make the delivery.
The plane, with a crew of about a dozen from the 910th Airlift Wing from Youngstown, Ohio, a reserve unit attached to the 86th Airlift Wing, delivered tents, sleeping bags, cots and medical supplies.
It was the third plane of humanitarian relief equipment that the United States had delivered to Algeria during the week, said Janet A. Sanderson, U.S. ambassador to Algeria.
A fourth plane of supplies was expected Saturday.
Friday’s shipment was the only one from the U.S. European Command; the others have carried supplies contracted for delivery by the U.S. State Department, Sanderson said.
She said that Algerian officials have asked only for material assistance because they have enough personnel, such as rescue workers and medical teams.
EUCOM may be asked to provide more assistance.
“We don’t want to overwhelm them with help they don’t need,” she said.
The equipment on the C-130, which took three hours to fly from Ramstein to Algeria, all came from EUCOM’s surplus-property program, said Air Force Capt. Shelby L. Fisher, the humanitarian assistance liaison officer for the Third Air Force Headquarters in Mildenhall, England.
The program regularly donates surplus military and Department of Defense equipment, ranging from tents to ambulances, to countries that need help, she said.
“That was all very easy to coordinate with the Algerians,” she said.
EUCOM regularly supplies humanitarian assistance and in the past year has delivered supplies to many countries, such as Serbia-Montenegro and Kenya.
While operations such as Friday’s humanitarian relief mission are good for people in dire situations, they also showcase a less familiar role of the U.S. military, said Air Force Lt. Col. Tim Marceau, chief of current operations for the 3rd Air Force based at Mildenhall, England.
“The U.S. military is not just about war-fighting. We have another face. We’re showing that face today,” Marceau said Friday as Algerian workers unloaded the humanitarian aid at the Algiers airport.
At least 2,251 people were killed and more than 10,000 people are now believed to have been injured by last Wednesday’s quake, according to figures released by the Algerian Interior Ministry.
The Algerian government is under increasing pressure to find extra tents and other supplies to improve the living conditions for the people made homeless by the quake, who number up to 120,000, according to press reports.
Friday’s flight from Germany left around noon and arrived a little after 3 p.m. By 5:30 p.m., the C-130 had been unloaded and was back in the air.
Pilots flew low and circled around the epicenter of the earthquake in the northern part of the country as the crew headed back to Ramstein. Tent cities erected to help the recently homeless were clearly visible from the air.
Mollise, who has been in Germany since mid-March, said she usually flies missions to the Balkans.
“This was a nice break,” she said. “It’s good to help others.”