15 August 2008

More C-130s leave Ramstein AB for Georgia with aid, relief personnel

Update: Video of flight arrival in Georgia.

115 Soldiers from Immediate Response 2008 exercise remain in Tblisi, medical team on stand-by in Germany. Flights to continue until further notice, Naval expansion planned.

Ramstein C-130s bound for Georgia with humanitarian aid, medical team

By Steve Mraz, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Saturday, August 16, 2008

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Two Ramstein Air Base C-130s left for the embattled nation of Georgia on Friday and more are expected to deliver additional humanitarian aid shipments in the coming days.

"Our plan is to conduct one to two flights a day until further notice," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Corey Barker, a U.S. European Command spokesman.

Each of the C-130s that flew from Ramstein on Friday carried three pallets of humanitarian aid. Together, the planes carried 13,000 pounds of goods bound for Georgia. Also on the flights were nine airmen with the 86th Contingency Response Group and one U.S. Agency for International Development employee who will stay in the country to help with the relief effort, said Air Force Capt. Erin Dorrance, 86th Airlift Wing spokeswoman.

"We’re going to continue the support as long as the State Department and the host nation say they have a need," Dorrance said.

A team of 24 doctors, nurses and medical technicians from Landstuhl Regional Medical Center’s 435th Medical Squadron are on stand-by to travel to Georgia, said Landstuhl spokesman Chuck Roberts. ...

As early as Tuesday, soldiers began securing loads bound for the country.

"The whole purpose of this humanitarian effort is to assist Georgian civilians on the ground who are in desperate need of this support," said Army Lt. Col. Bob Curran, commander of the 39th Transportation Battalion.

About 115 U.S. soldiers in Tbilisi remain on stand-by in case they are needed for the ongoing humanitarian effort, Barker said.

"We’re in the assessment phase to determine what level of support to provide," Barker said.

A U.S. Army Europe survey team is currently in Georgia to judge the scope of the humanitarian need and determine what level of assistance will be required. The team will be in the country through the weekend.

The soldiers, who have been in the country since the start of the conflict between Russia and Georgia, could possibly help with the distribution of supplies. They also could soon be returning home if it is determined their presence isn’t needed, Barker said.

The soldiers were initially in the country for Immediate Response 2008, which is part of an on-going training partnership between the Georgian and American militaries. Virtually all of the 1,000 member U.S. force that took part in the exercise was out of the country by the time the conflict started more than a week ago.

Stripes reporter John Vandiver contributed to this story.

Meanwhile, stateside:

Scope of U.S. aid to Georgia widens

By Lisa Burgess, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Saturday, August 16, 2008

ARLINGTON, Va. — The U.S. military is preparing to expand its humanitarian mission in Georgia, with plans under way to use ships as well as aircraft to ferry relief supplies in the coming weeks, according to the senior military logistics planner for the effort.

"We anticipate that the scope of the operation, and the needs, will grow," Navy Rear Adm. Steven Romano, European Command Director of Logistics, told reporters in a Friday conference call with reporters from Stuttgart, Germany.

As a result, Romano said, "we are positioning and planning to respond to that growth, using strategic airlift and increasing [both] capacity and supplies."

U.S. Naval forces, meanwhile, are making plans to deliver supplies through the Black Sea to Georgian ports, although Romano did not say which ports, or which U.S. ships, might be used.

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