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Airman returns home to Nepal after earthquake

Senior Airman Manoj Khatiwada, a 21st Medical Operations Squadron aerospace medical technician, stands in front of a pallet of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief supplies at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, Nepal, May 8, 2015. Four days after the earthquake in Nepal, Khatiwada was on a C-17 Globemaster III with members of the 36th Contingency Response Group on their way to Nepal. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Melissa White)

Senior Airman Manoj Khatiwada, a 21st Medical Operations Squadron aerospace medical technician, stands in front of a pallet of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief supplies at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, Nepal, May 8, 2015. Four days after the earthquake in Nepal, Khatiwada was on a C-17 Globemaster III with members of the 36th Contingency Response Group on their way to Nepal. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Melissa White)

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AFNS) -- When Senior Airman Manoj Khatiwada was asked to join a team of Pacific Air Forces Airmen traveling to Nepal to assist the government with relief operations following a magnitude 7.8 earthquake, he was filled with mixed emotions.

"Returning to Nepal for this mission was an emotional moment for me. I didn't know how I would react seeing the city where I was born and raised destroyed," said Khatiwada, a 21st Medical Operations Squadron aerospace medical technician. "Thousands of Nepalese died and thousands are injured. I am happy that I am here but I am sad to see this happen to Nepal."

Khatiwada was born and raised in Nepal and came to the U.S. in 2009 after being awarded permanent residency through the Diversity Visa lottery program. Each year, the U.S. government makes 50,000 permanent residence visas available to citizens of nations that have traditionally low levels of immigration to the U.S. through program. The program was designed to bring greater racial and ethnic diversity.

"Since childhood, I have had the desire to be in uniform and serve in the military," he said. "I was fortunate to join the world's greatest military and serve the men and women who welcomed me with open arms."

Since arriving in Nepal, Khatiwada has played a critical link between the Nepalese and the 36th Contingency Response Group in its effort to assist the Nepalese with accelerating airfield operations and increase the capacity to bring in aid via airlift, ultimately distributing aid faster to those effected by the disaster.

"Having Senior Airman Khatiwada embedded with our team has helped us better communicate how we can assist the people of Nepal in the relief efforts," said Lt. Col. Glenn Rinehart, the 36th Mobility Response Squadron commander. "He understands their interests and helps ensure effective communication so we can work together better. What would have normally taken days to orchestrate, he has been able to communicate and coordinate within hours."

Khatiwada said the most rewarding part of his job is being able to work with the two countries he loves the most.

"The United States has always been generous and supportive to Nepal and the Nepalese. I am very thankful that the U.S. military is able to assist USAID and the Nepal government in the relief operations," he said. "This support means a lot to the country."

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