Pacific Command elements delivering critical supplies and expertise to Asian nations devastated last month by a catastrophic tsunami continue to provide humanitarian assistance and evaluate the destruction for additional needs.

Statistics from the U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii show 14 strategic lift cargo planes were flying food, supplies and equipment to Thailand, Sri Lanka and Indonesia, and 48 helicopters continuously were delivering those supplies to areas most desperately in need of relief.

In addition, as of Monday afternoon, 20 U.S. Navy ships were providing logistical and coordination support for relief efforts, including the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group, USS Bonhomme Richard and Expeditionary Strike Group 5 and the USS Fort McHenry, an amphibious dock landing ship from Sasebo Naval Base, Japan.

More than 15,000 U.S. Navy, Marine, Army, Air Force and Coast Guard servicemembers are involved in relief support, according to PACOM.

“We will continue to send more if needed,” a PACOM spokeswoman said Monday. “As we receive more information from the assessments that are being conducted, we can then determine more about the needs of the region.”

An estimated 5 million residents in nine Asian nations are homeless after an Indian Ocean earthquake measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale created the killer tsunami Dec. 26. The overall death toll is forecast to hit 150,000.

Col. Mark O. Schissler, commander of the 374th Airlift Wing at Yokota Air Base, said Monday, “We already have about 150 people deployed from Yokota in support of humanitarian relief operations; that number could easily double to over 300.”

An eighth C-130 deployed Sunday. “We’ve deployed all our C-130 aircraft and most of our crew force,” Schissler said, “and they began flying relief missions immediately after they arrived.”

The commander said 374th Airlift Wing aircraft maintenance personnel and those with other specialties also are deployed.

“If you’ve been watching TV coverage of the disaster, you’ve already seen the gray C-130 tails with ‘YJ’ painted on them; those are Yokota aircraft,” the commander said. Based for the disaster relief effort in Utapao, Thailand, “they’re flying missions throughout the affected countries to deliver relief supplies and teams to begin the massive recovery.”

Since relief operations began, approximately 170 airmen have deployed from Yokota and around 57 tons of cargo have been delivered.

Schissler said he is impressed by the morale shown by airmen deploying to tsunami-stricken areas.

Along with relief units already in place, about 200 Marine engineers and communications specialists from Okinawa’s 3rd Force Service Support Group were scheduled to arrive in Sri Lanka on Tuesday, the PACOM spokeswoman said.

An estimated 100 Marines and sailors and six CH-53D Sea Stallion helicopters from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 362 at Marine Corps Base Hawaii were airlifted via C-5 Galaxy cargo aircraft from Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, to the region over the weekend; HMH-362 will transport emergency relief supplies and help evacuate the injured.

In addition, Marine Corps officials on Okinawa said six flights left Okinawa on Saturday carrying Humvees; Meals, Ready to Eat; water and communications gear.

Officials at PACOM declined to comment on whether the tsunami damage or the massive relief effort would affect scheduled military exercises in the region, especially Cobra Gold, the signature multilateral exercise held annually each spring in Thailand.

Last year’s exercise involved 13,500 U.S. troops, 5,500 Thais and a combined force of 100 military personnel from the Philippines, Singapore and Mongolia, as well as observers from 11 other countries. Besides forging joint warfare skills, each Cobra Gold exercise also includes humanitarian relief, skills now being put to use in the tsunami relief efforts.

Some good news came Monday when a Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Pacific Division spokesman said none of the DODDS teachers known to have been vacationing in the ravaged areas were killed, and all were accounted for.

David Allen contributed to this report.

Military supports tsunami relief effort

More than 15,000 U.S. Navy, Marine, Army, Air Force and Coast Guard servicemembers are involved in relief support. Approximately 20 U.S. Navy ships are in the immediate area providing logistical and coordination support for relief efforts. Fourteen strategic lift cargo planes are flying food, supplies and equipment to supply hubs into Thailand, Sri Lanka and Indonesia. Forty-eight helicopters are continuously delivering those supplies to the areas desperately in need of relief supplies.

U.S. Marine Corps assets

Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 362 at Marine Corps Base Hawaii:

100 Marines and sailors from Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 24.6 CH-53D Sea Stallion helicopters to be airlifted by C-5 Galaxy cargo aircraft.1st Marine Aircraft Wing at Marine Corps Base Camp Butler, Okinawa:

Medium and heavy lift helicopters.Four C-130s to deliver relief personnel and supplies and to conduct medical
 evacuations.3rd Marine Aircraft Wing at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif.:

KC-130s to Colombo, Sri Lanka, to assist ESG-5.9th Communications Battalion at Camp Pendleton, California, will depart for Phuket, Thailand, to provide essential communications support throughout the area.

U.S. Air Force assets

Air assets:

C-130E: 7 aircraft

HH-60: 10 (at Kadena will be moving forward on airlift to Colombo)

HH-60: 10 (USFK aeromedical evac helos)

KC-135: Providing air transport and aircraft continue to flow inter-theater airlift.

EMEDS: Expeditionary Medical Support capability prepared to depart Yokota Air Base Japan, and deploy to region

TALCE: Tanker Airlift Control Element capabilities being set up at five locations throughout the region to transport relief supplies, people and equipment.

JCOMS: VTC equipment en route to Utapao, Phuket and Sri Lanka.

Air Force personnel:

Currently on ground: 225; Inbound: 1,175

U.S. Navy assets

USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group: 6,164 personnel

USS Bonhomme Richard and Expeditionary Strike Group 5: 5,286 personnel.

Nine P-3C Orion surveillance aircraft from Patrol Squadron (VP) 8 and VP-4.
Navy Environmental and Preventive Medicine Unit 6 out of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

31-person preventive medical team to Indonesia to monitor water quality, food sanitation and mosquitoes, and will participate in disease outbreak surveillance, chemical analysis.

Six Maritime Pre-positioning Ships from Maritime Prepositioning Ship Squadron Three are underway to the Gulf of Thailand from South Korea and Guam.

SOURCE: U.S. Pacific Command

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