III MEF Marines, sailors set for Pakistan relief mission
CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa — Marines and sailors from III Marine Expeditionary Force are packed and ready to deploy to provide medical care to earthquake-shattered Pakistan.
Some 240 servicemembers from 3rd Marine Logistics Group will set up shop to provide humanitarian assistance near Muzaffarabad, according to Lt. Col. Jamie Gannon, commanding officer of the Pakistan-bound detachment.
In a Wednesday Stars and Stripes report, a Pacific Command spokesman said the contingency had left for Pakistan. But as of Wednesday morning, the Marines and sailors had not left.
The deploying group includes 3rd Medical Battalion’s Bravo Surgical Company and Marines from various battalions within 3rd MLG. The Marines provide support to a surgical company, including communications, motor transport, command and control, utilities, engineer capabilities and water production. Gannon said the group is totally self-sufficient.
“In true Marine Corps fashion, we are expeditionary,” added Navy Capt. David R. Davis, 3rd Medical Battalion commanding officer.
Davis said the surgical company will take a Shock Trauma Platoon — an emergency room in a tent — and one operating room suite including two operating tables and all accompanying gear. Also going: a mobile laboratory, X-ray services, a pharmacy and 90 cots, 20 of them for intensive-care and postsurgery patients.
Davis said the medical staff will be equipped to handle 100 surgical cases initially. “We expect to see cases that may require some form of surgical intervention, specifically injuries involving the extremities,” he said.
The unit was asked about 10 days ago to support a disaster relief mission in Pakistan, Davis said. Since then, the Marines and sailors have been preparing. Gannon said the detachment should head to Pakistan soon. “We’re poised and ready,” he said.
Once in Pakistan, Davis said, the surgical company should be able to begin seeing patients in six hours and the support units should be fully operative in from 12 to 18 hours.
To prepare, he said, the units have been talking to European Command and the Army’s 212th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, recently arrived in Pakistan.
Some valuable information already gained is about the rugged terrain. The Army’s 212th MASH took 27 hours to travel 150 miles in 5-ton trucks to its site.
Gannon said the Okinawa group will take mostly Humvees and a few 7-ton trucks but will rely mostly on local trucks to transport cargo.
Marines and sailors of III MEF are no strangers to deployments, Davis said. The medical battalion sent one surgical unit to Sri Lanka and another to Indonesia for tsunami relief in early 2005. It’s also supported exercises throughout the Pacific.
Gannon said the U.S. military’s quick reaction time makes it ideal to support relief efforts. “It’s the right thing to do,” he said. “We’re experienced and we’re rapidly deployable … on short notice. If we have the capabilities, it makes all the sense in the world to help the government of Pakistan … a critical ally.”
Gannon said the unit remains unsure of precisely when it will leave for Pakistan and return.