Airmen passing relief operation to UN-led team|
by Capt. David Westover
374th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
1/26/2005 - UTAPAO, Thailand (AFPN) -- The more than 850 deployed Airmen from bases around Pacific Air Forces are preparing to head home.
PACAF aircrews, maintainers and mission support Airmen have been here supporting Operation Unified Assistance, the humanitarian effort delivering relief supplies to several countries in Southeast Asia affected by tsunamis Dec. 26.
As the U.S. military completes its emergency relief portion of the mission, the United Nations, the World Food Program and other organizations will take over the relief effort, officials said.
"I'm very proud of the people who have made this relief effort possible," said Col. Mark Schissler, 374th Air Expeditionary Wing commander. "Especially our Airmen . . . who've sweated and worked hard to make every mission successful. It's remarkable that our Air Force has flown more than 850 sorties and almost 2,500 hours, delivering over 4 million pounds of humanitarian aid as part of a joint and international team.
"I could not be happier with the incredible performance of our expeditionary unit," said Lt. Col. Charles Eastman, 36th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron commander. "Though no one really could have anticipated a tragedy of this magnitude, we train every day in preparation for possible contingencies," he said. "As a result, this time when our nation called, we were clearly ready."
"It's great to see how all the training on a daily basis at home pays off in the field," said Chief Master Sgt. Kevin Van Gordon, 36th EAS maintenance flight superintendent. "When you can see results everyday and know what you are doing is helping so many people, it just feels good to be part of the team."
Air Force officials said they plan to redeploy all assets in Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand over the next several days.
"We've nearly completed our mission here, providing the emergency relief that thousands of people desperately needed," Colonel Schissler said. "And I'm pleased to say that we're turning this operation over to a very capable and resourceful UN-led team here in the region."