US, Nepal team up for disaster response training

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Richard Ebensberger
  • 36th Contingency Response Group Public Affairs
Ten U.S. Air Force air advisors from the 36th Contingency Response Group, Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, embarked on a journey over 4,000 miles away from their tropical duty station to the mountainous country of Nepal, where they participated in a subject-matter expert exchange with 20 members from the Nepalese Army, Nepal Police, Nepal Armed Police Force, Nepal Airlines and Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal Aug. 21-25, 2017.

The exchange was hosted at the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, and was focused on sharing ideas and techniques about cargo handling, warehouse management, vehicle maintenance, forklift operations, first responder medical care and patient transport.

In 2015, Nepal was struck by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake followed by a series of aftershocks that killed over 8,000 people and left many injured, without shelter, food, supplies or medical care. Besides the dangers of earthquakes, Nepal is also currently facing the worst rains in 15 years which have caused severe flooding and wreaked havoc across the country resulting in hundreds of deaths and leaving thousands homeless.

“This was the third exchange since the 2015 earthquake and each year we continue to build a stronger relationship with our Nepalese counterparts,” said Maj. Ian Bertram, 36th CRG air advisor commander. “We appreciate Nepal’s eagerness to host engagements such as this, which are critical to advancing our ability to operate together in a time of disaster.”

During the warehouse portion, participants toured the Nepal Airlines cargo warehouse to see firsthand how they receive, distribute and store cargo. This opportunity allowed for an exchange of ideas on property control, storage segregation, hazardous material storage, pilferage control measures and personnel safety.

By sharing different storage techniques, and discussing methods that would minimize property damages, parties learned how to regain operations faster after a disaster.

“These are critical skills that not only help us to develop a stronger partnership, but also improve interoperability during disaster relief operations,” said Tech. Sgt. Roxana Aguilar, 36th CRG cargo and warehouse management exchange lead. “Cargo handling and warehouse management are areas that are often not taken into account during disasters and often result in bottle neck distribution problems, missing property, increased smuggling of illegal items and unnecessary delays in critical asset delivery.”

Immediately after the tour, participants ventured onto the United Nations World Food Programme Humanitarian Staging Area where they learned how the 2015 earthquakes response occurred and how Nepal is prepared to respond to a crisis in the future. More than 88,800 cubic meters of humanitarian relief cargo including food, medication, emergency shelters and sanitation equipment was processed through HSA after the 2015 earthquakes.

“I was here for the 2015 earthquake and the SME-exchange last year, I’ve learned something new each time, and I’m continuing to build greater relationships,” said Tech. Sgt. Robert Koon, 36th CRG team sergeant. “Being able to tour these facilities gave all of us a better understanding of how these agencies operate so that we can continue (to) better integrate with them if the time ever arises.”

The cargo handling portion allowed each member to practice forklift operations to better familiarize themselves with ways to move cargo safely, yet rapidly.

“The ability to off-load and transport cargo quickly is vital to ensuring supplies are distributed where they need to go and to those that need them the most, especially during a disaster,” said Tech. Sgt. John Rios 36th Mobility Response Squadron air transportation specialist.

The groups were then broken out into two-man teams with a driver and spotter, where they competed for the fastest time to navigate an obstacle course.

“Nepal is a landlocked country that doesn’t have any large bodies of water, so air transport is the key to getting supplies into the country as fast as possible,” said Bertram. “Having the ability to unload, transport and disseminate supplies could become a matter of life or death during a natural disaster, and the skills learned this week have improved our interoperability, and we’ve built an even greater partnership.”