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Nepal final report: AF support for Operation Sahayogi Haat

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Alexander Martinez
  • Headquarters Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs
Since the May 26 deactivation of the Nepal earthquake response task force, Joint Task Force-505, the scope of the Air Force's contribution to Operation Sahayogi Haat reveal the magnitude of Pacific Air Force's role in the response.

During the operation, Airmen, equipment, supplies and aircraft from Air Force bases in Japan, Guam, Hawaii and Alaska contributed to the joint-service response, providing the airlift capabilities needed to get in and out of mountainous Nepal.

Brig. Gen. Michael Minihan, the JTF-505 Joint Air Component Coordination Element commander, discussed the importance of the Air Force capabilities that supported the operation.

"The Air Force's role was extremely important to the JTF mission because of the challenges associated with this operation," Minihan said. "The location of Nepal and the distances required for getting humanitarian assistance and disaster relief into the country required the need for our aircraft to set up an air bridge from U-Tapao, Thailand, into Nepal. This allowed us to provide the unique air capabilities the JTF needed and to bring in much needed aid and supplies to help the people of Nepal."

On the ground in Nepal, the 36th Contingency Response Group from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, worked at the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu. They assisted the Nepalese to accelerate airfield operations and increased the capacity to bring in aid via airlift ensuring aid was distributed faster, and ultimately downloaded 4.27 million pounds of cargo from 94 aircraft. Following a second, powerful earthquake May 12, 36th CRG personnel also provided medical assistance for 58 aeromedical evacuation patients.

"Simply put, we downloaded aircraft quickly and safely to get cargo where it needed to go," said Capt. Brint Ingersoll, the 36th CRG operations officer. "Our diverse team kept aircraft ground times to a minimum which allowed a larger and faster flow of aircraft and humanitarian aid. Once downloaded, humanitarian aid was sent out to villages or to the distribution center the same day it arrived in Nepal, avoiding any congestion at the airfield."

Airmen from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and Kadena Air Base, Japan, made up the Air Force support piece of the JTF-505 Joint Air Component Coordination Element at U-Tapao Royal Thai Navy Airfield, Thailand. There, an intermediate staging base was established to support aircraft flying in and out of Nepal. Additionally, U.S. and Thai forces worked together to support Nepal at the Thai-U.S. HADR Combined Coordination Center for Nepal.

With air operations humming throughout the Pacific, much of the Nepal coordination, monitoring and planning occurred at the 613th Air Operations Center in Hawaii, which serves as the nerve center of air operations during any Pacific campaign.

"It doesn't matter if it's an earthquake in Nepal or a typhoon in the Philippines, the team assembled here (at PACAF) has all the relationships, abilities, and the situational awareness needed to anticipate what would be required of us, to prepare those requirements, and to get into the 'fight' as quickly as possible," Minihan said.

In total, the Air Force flew 171 sorties and spent over 730 hours in the sky, collectively airlifting 800 short tons of cargo and 863 passengers in and out of Nepal on C-17 Globemaster IIIs and C-130 Hercules in support of Operation Sahayogi Haat.

About 900 U.S. military and civilian personnel from the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps contributed to the Nepal relief efforts as part of JTF-505.