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The first C-17 was greeted with applause from the waiting group of Georgians. Then, shortly after touching down in Tbilisi, the plane was back in the air and bound for Ramstein Air Base, Germany, to reload.

"It’s flying a leap frog," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Corey Barker, a spokesman for U.S. European Command.

In all, about $2 million in humanitarian aid was delivered aboard back-to-back U.S. military flights Wednesday and Thursday, according to EUCOM.

In the days to come, more deliveries are expected in the war-torn country where thousands of people are believed to be displaced from their homes after a week of violence.

A survey team from U.S. Army Europe will be on the ground for the next several days to assess the scope of the humanitarian need and determine what is in shortest supply, according to EUCOM.

Meanwhile, about 115 U.S. soldiers are on hand awaiting word from U.S. Embassy officials in Georgia and the Georgian government, which are the two entities that will determine how to allocate items such as cots, blankets and medical equipment.

"They (the soldiers) are the vessels to get the supplies to the people. They’re eager to help out," Barker said.

EUCOM has about 115 military personnel in Tbilisi, where the soldiers recently took part in a training mission with members of the Georgian army.

The exercise — Immediate Response 2008 — involved 1,000 U.S. military members drawn from bases in Europe as well as stateside Marine and reserve units. The exercise ended just one day before fighting broke out last Friday between Russia and Georgia, who are engaged in a dispute over two breakaway provinces. Nearly all the U.S. troop contingent was out of the country when the fighting started.

The political price of Russia’s incursion into Georgia is apparently already coming due.

For the past two Septembers, the Russian navy has participated in an ongoing NATO effort called Operation Active Endeavour, a maritime counter-terrorism mission that began in October 2001. The operation involves the surveillance and monitoring of ships and shipping lanes in the Mediterranean.

The Russian frigate RFS Ladniy participated in the mission last year, but will not return to the alliance-led operation next month, according to a NATO official who requested anonymity.

At a closed-door meeting this week, the North Atlantic Council decided not to permit Russia’s inclusion in the effort because it "would not be appropriate for a Russian ship to join this operation at this moment in time" due to the situation in Georgian, the official said.

The participation of the Ladniy "would have helped, but its (absence is) not going to affect the carrying out of the mission," the official said.

"We believe the overall impact will be quite small," added British Navy Commander Kevan McHale, a spokesman in the public affairs office at the Supreme Allied Commander Europe headquarters in Mons, Belgium.

Stars and Stripes reporter Kevin Dougherty contributed to this story.

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John covers U.S. military activities across Europe and Africa. Based in Stuttgart, Germany, he previously worked for newspapers in New Jersey, North Carolina and Maryland. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.
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