Attachés use C-12 to support humanitarian efforts in Maldives

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Steve Marshall
  • U.S. Defense Attaché Office, Bangkok
Members of the Bangkok Defense Attaché Office recently completed a humanitarian mission to the Maldives.

Working with DAO Colombo, the Colombo U.S. Embassy political office and the Special Operations Command-Pacific, the Bangkok DAO delivered medical supplies and books to some of the more remote atolls in the Maldives. The Bangkok and Colombo attachés also met with local leaders and the Maldivian National Defense Force leadership.

“This was a great chance to use the C-12 (Huron) to access one of the more remote islands and deliver aid directly to those in need,” said Capt. Mike Reed, the Colombo U.S. Embassy Civil Military Support Element chief. “Despite what many westerners might consider primitive conditions, the locals are extremely welcoming and hospitable.”

“The Maldivian locals opened their lives to us without question; we found it professionally and personally rewarding to engage both the local villagers and the MNDF,” said Jacob English, a Colombo DAO defense liaison officer.

The C-12 crew from Bangkok agreed missions like this one exemplify the power of joint and interagency effort on the ground during “phase zero” operations. Phase zero refers to the concept of taking coordinated action in peacetime to affect the strategic environment. Long-term partnerships are built with continual effort and presence. Often, remote locations like the Maldivian atolls are difficult places to advance U.S. interests, but it is in these remote locations where advancement of those interests is most critical.

“The power of the Defense Attaché Service C-12 to enable synergy between the DAS, SOCPAC, and Department of State is unparalleled in austere situations like the Maldives or parts of Africa, and the Air Force and Navy team at DAO Bangkok is proud to be a part of that force multiplier,” said Col. Dave Diehl, a C-12 pilot and Bangkok air attaché.

Beyond the critical phase zero operations, the flying was not exactly boring either. The Huron is specifically used by the attaché service to access locations where commercial service is limited or not available. The C-12 in Bangkok is always in high demand to provide support to other DAOs in the region, and has been used in Vietnam, Malaysia, Myanmar and Cambodia.

During this visit, the Huron provided the means to transport humanitarian supplies which not only helped local Maldivians in immediate need, but opened many doors to local leaders and defense officials. By the end of the mission the C-12 crew was able to land at six different Maldivian airports, including two never before visited by U.S. military aircraft.

“It was both fun and rewarding for the crew making it all happen,” Diehl said. “The pilots leaned heavily on their C-130 (Hercules) experience on the short fields and Master Sgt. Brian Roberts used all his skills acquired as a former crew chief to help with minor maintenance and cargo loading, all critical to mission accomplishment.”

The mission overall was deemed a great success by SOCPAC and the embassy in Colombo. The attachés were thanked and invited back with the C-12 as soon as possible. The DAO Bangkok crew is already planning the next mission and should use lessons learned on this flight to increase efficiency on the next go-around both in the Maldives and as they support other regional partners.

“Executing these missions both regionally and within Thailand showcases the United States as a partner who cares, and it is defense attachés and the DAS C-12s at the forefront of that effort,” Diehl said.