Okinawa-based officers heading up cyclone relief effort
ARLINGTON, Va. — Two Okinawa-based general officers are in charge of U.S. relief efforts in Bangladesh, in response to a Nov. 15 cyclone which killed more than 3,200 people there.
The U.S. military has dispatched the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge, which is carrying Marines and sailors with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, to Bangladesh. U.S. Pacific Command has also sent a 23-man team from the III Marine Expeditionary Force on Okinawa to assess the situation on the southern coast of Bangladesh.
Right now, about 1,200 Marines and 1,200 sailors are involved with delivering water and other relief supplies to affected areas in Bangladesh and providing medical care to those in need, said Adm. Timothy Keating, head of PACOM.
The troops on the ground are under the command of Brig. Gen. Ronald L. Bailey, commander of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade; while the efforts at sea are being led by Rear Adm. Carol Pottenger, commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 7/Task Force 76, Keating said.
Keating said that U.S. officials felt it was necessary to put general officers in charge of the relief efforts to reassure some in Bangladesh who are “a little leery” of having U.S. troops in their country.
“We felt comfortable that they would be able to handle not just the movement of military assistance and personnel but the diplomatic aspects of this situation as well … and Ron and Carol were inclined anyway to make sure that the Bangladeshis understood we are in support of them, we are in support of USAID’s [U.S. Agency for International Development’s] efforts, and we will do nothing that it is not at the behest of Bangladesh,” Keating said.
In the past few days, U.S. troops have flown dozens of sorties using 20 helicopters, moving nearly 24 tons of relief supplies to Bangladesh, mostly water, Keating said.
“They are projecting in the next four days to move 160 tons of material,” he said.
U.S. troops have also brought a water-purification machine into Bangladesh and two more machines are en route, Keating said.
The amphibious assault ship USS Tarawa is also heading to the region, but it is unknown whether it will be part of relief efforts, he said.