Okinawa Marines work to get drop on Pakistan quake relief
While Okinawa-based corpsmen, doctors and nurses have been busy treating more than 10,000 patients at their field hospital in Shinkiari, Pakistan, a handful of Marines are lending their expertise to the massive relief effort for those affected by the devastating Oct. 8, 2005, earthquake.
Five Marine landing support specialists, currently attached to Combined Medical Relief Team 3, have been serving at the Muzaffarabad airport to help in that mission, according to a Marine Corps news release.
The Marines — who are from Okinawa’s 3rd Transportation Support Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group — have helped deliver more than 6.5 million pounds of relief supplies since Nov. 16, according to the news release.
The team’s mission is to help get food and supplies to Pakistanis who are high in the mountains or cut off from populated areas, Staff Sgt. Victor Robinson, sling-load chief for the helicopter support team, said in the news release.
The Marines are helping in the delivery cause by manually connecting supply-loads, or sling- loads, to hooks underneath Army CH-47 Chinook cargo helicopters.
Since about 10,000 pounds of supplies can be carried by one helicopter and released by a push of a button, sling-loads are the most effective method of delivery, Robinson said.
It has been a learning experience for the team, as they’ve never worked with the Army’s massive helicopters before.
“I didn’t know if we were even going to do external lifts when we got here,” Lance Cpl. Jeffrey Radcliff, landing support specialist, said in the news release. “At first, working with the Chinooks was a little intimidating because the hooks are connected directly to the body of the [helicopter] and they have to come within inches of us for us to connect the load.”
With more than 700 successful lifts to their credit, the Marine team members are proud to say they’ve contributed to the effort, and done it safely.
“We never expected to handle such a large number of [operations],” Robinson said in the news release.