Okinawa Marine unit delivers heavy loads of relief to Pakistan
Supplying remote villages in the mountains of earthquake-ravaged Pakistan is no easy task.
With steep terrain and roads and paths blocked, the only way to get medical and relief supplies to those needing them usually is by helicopter.
Helping those helicopters complete their missions are six Marine air traffic controllers from Okinawa’s Marine Air Control Squadron-4, all currently attached to Marine Air Control Group 18.
The six Marines call Okinawa’s Marine Corps Air Station Futenma home, but since Nov. 15 have been helping run landing zones in Muzaffarabad and Shinkiari, Pakistan, according to a Marine Corps news release.
They’ve coordinated more than 2,500 helicopter take-offs and landings, helping deliver some 9.5 million pounds of humanitarian supplies.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Lance Cpl. Lewis Dever, one of the air traffic controllers serving in Muzaffarabad, was quoted as saying in the release.
“We are seeing about 200 operations between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. every day. MCAS Futenma operates from 7 a.m. thru 11 p.m. and sees about 50 operations a day.”
The mission is to coordinate air traffic control procedures, which includes communicating radio contact procedures with the tower and the altitudes pilots must maintain when arriving or departing the landing zones, according to Staff Sgt. Eric Grussing, air traffic control mobile team leader.
They work with their Pakistani counterparts to ensure safe landings and departures of all aircraft entering or leaving the two landing zones at which they serve.
The air traffic controllers said flying on a delivery mission and witnessing the devastation first- hand made them appreciate the importance of their job.
“Some people had nothing,” Dever said. “Seeing the people receiving the supplies really hit home … made us realize how crucial these flights really are to the Pakistani people."