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Banner - 2005 Year in Review
Photo - See Caption
U.S. Army Capt. Hyer talks with a Pakistani woman after she has been in surgery at the 557th Medical Company hospital at Muzaffafabad, Pakistan, Oct. 31, 2005. The U.S. Army is delivering disaster relief supplies and services as part of a multinational effort to provide aid and support to Pakistan and parts of India and Afghanistan following a devastating earthquake. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Quinton Russ
WHEN THE EARTH SHOOK
U.S. Responds to Magnitude 7.6 Earthquake in Pakistan

U.S. troops were on the ground providing aid within 48 hours after a massive magnitude 7.6 earthquake struck northern Pakistan Oct. 8, 2005. Officials estimate more than 73,000 people died and at least as many were injured.

Within two days of the disaster, a U.S. Air Force C-17 with a 7th Airlift Squadron crew, based on McChord Air Force Base, Wash., departed Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, to deliver the first relief supplies to Islamabad, Pakistan's capital. The first flight brought 90,000 pounds of food, water, medicine and blankets.


“Our hearts go out to all those affected by the earthquake, and we are thankful we were able to help them out,” said an officer who was on the first flight, Air Force Col. Mike Isherwood, vice commander of the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing.
“I know the earthquake caused a lot of damage, and the Pakistani people really need our assistance. I’m glad I’m in a position to make it happen.”

                                                 Air Force Airman 1st Class Dan Gutowski,
                                                          C-17 Globemaster aircrew member

U.S. military forces in the U.S. Central Command area of operations moved quickly to mitigate the disaster, setting up a Disaster Assistance Center led by Navy Rear Adm. Mike LeFever. Early in the operation, LeFever said morale among troops on the ground was “sky high” because of the mission they were doing and because of the thousands of lives they were saving.

U.S. assistance initially focused on search and rescue efforts, but quickly transitioned to humanitarian aid. As many as 3 million people in the devastated region depended on foreign aid supplies of tents, blankets, medical care and supplies, food and water, and sanitation supplies, as well as the means to deliver them to remote areas with destroyed infrastructure.

“I know the earthquake caused a lot of damage, and the Pakistani people really need our assistance,” C-17 Globemaster aircrew member Air Force Airman 1st Class Dan Gutowski, from Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., said during an airlift mission Oct. 15. “I'm glad I'm in a position to make it happen.”

As winter took hold of the region, particularly in mountainous areas, the humanitarian aid became even more crucial.

In November, U.S. defense officials announced they were doubling funding for Pakistan relief operations – to nearly $110 million. By the end of the year, the U.S. government had pledged a total of $510 million in military support and humanitarian and reconstruction assistance.

“I'm grateful to the men and women in uniform for the noble work they are doing. And they represent the best of America, the generous spirit of our country,” President Bush said about the humanitarian efforts.

“Our government's response to this tragedy … should say to the people of the world, ‘We care when somebody else suffers.'”

As of mid-December, the United States had delivered more than 45,000 blankets, 1,570 winterized tents and 6,150 rolls of plastic sheeting to fortify shelters for almost 31,000 families, U.S. defense officials said.

Since arriving in Pakistan Oct. 10, U.S. military forces have flown more than 2,700 helicopter flights, delivering more than 12 million pounds of relief supplies, and provided urgent medical care to at least 14,000 Pakistanis.

In the operation's early days, Navy Seabees with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 74, deployed from Gulfport, Miss., worked to clear roads of rubble and repair culverts in areas where ground transportation was cut off.

At the height of U.S. military operations there, more than 1,200 troops and 24 helicopters were on the ground. The helicopters provided vital transportation, logistics, medical and engineering support.

“These people need help, and it just feels good to be able to help,” said Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Jennifer Capili, a storekeeper with Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 26, which was providing aid in Pakistan in early October.

At least nine military and civilian ships, including the USS Cleveland, the USS Tarawa and the USS Pearl Harbor, delivered equipment and supplies through the port of Karachi.

The 212th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital operated in Muzaffarabad, the quake's epicenter, starting Oct. 29. Elsewhere, personnel from the 3rd Medical Battalion, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force, treated patients in Shinkiari beginning Nov. 15.

U.S. airplanes and crews flew 10 strategic airlift sorties as part of NATO's relief efforts, as of late December. And the NATO mission delivered more than 2,700 tons of relief supplies.

During a Dec. 20 visit to the region, Vice President Richard B. Cheney called the U.S. relief mission “a remarkable success.”

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf took the opportunity to thank Cheney for America's support. “I don't think we could have managed the relief operation without your ships,” he said.

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