Pakistani locals aid in prep for increased flood relief missions
A local Pakistani man operates a forklift, moving pallets of food out of the hangar to a designated spot for air transport at Chaklala Air Field, Pakistan in support of flood relief efforts on Aug. 28, 2010. A U.S. Air Force Contingency Response Team from the 88th McGuire Air Force Base, NJ arrived today, taking over responsibilities for loading and off loading U.S. aircraft with supplies all over Pakistan.
(U.S. photo taken by Staff Sgt. Andy M. Kin)
by Staff Sgt. Kali Gradishar
U.S. AFCENT Combat Camera News Team
8/31/2010 - CHAKLALA AIR BASE, Pakistan -- Approximately 30 Pakistani workers are working around the clock to prepare for the arrival of U.S. soldiers expected to fly in within the next week to support U.S. military helicopter relief operations and assist the Pakistan government in providing food, water and other supplies to victims of the flood that left approximately 1/5 of the country under water.
Approximately 300 soldiers are scheduled to arrive from the 1st Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade out of Fort Wainwright, Alaska. The group of pilots, mechanics and various other support personnel will arrive with the moniker "Task Force Denali." To accommodate their arrival, facilities were erected at Chaklala with basic necessities to accommodate their stay.
Workers are putting tents in for the arriving U.S. personnel here to help with flood relief, said Mansoor Qamar of Nova Engineering in Islamabad, the company responsible for the build-up of facilities for the soldiers .
"It will be a complete camp for a couple of months. Sixteen tents for living and two for [tactical operations centers] and a dining facility, showers," he said.
As Chaklala Air Base did not already have the capacity to the soldiers within its confines, the creation of a temporary tent city was essential.
"The Pakistani government has been extremely helpful and a gracious host in allowing us to come here and help them," said Lt. Col. John Polhamus, the advanced party officer in charge tasked with arriving before the team to ensure set-up of the facilities went according to plan. "But you just don't show up with 300 people when they're not prepared to receive that amount of folks.
They're placing a tent city that they're basically building for us to receive the task force and allow us to do our jobs properly. So that includes everything from the shelter to the [dining facility] where we can eat, to showers," said the lieutenant colonel, a native of Fallston, Md.
The soldiers will arrive along with 10 CH-47 Chinooks, eight UH-60 Black Hawks and the equipment to support both aircraft. Once on the ground, the team will immediately go to work reassembling the aircraft that were disbanded for transport.
"We've been tasked to come down from Alaska to provide humanitarian assistance in conjunction with and in support of the Pakistani government," said Polhamus. "Once we build up here, we're going to press up to the northwest to another air field the Pakistani government has asked us to operate out of. And then from there, that will be the hub which we'll be delivering the humanitarian assistance from.
"This is a joint effort ... This doesn't happen quickly and it takes a lot of manpower across the spectrum to get folks down here," said the lieutenant colonel. "Every request we've had so far, they've been very gracious - the Pakistani government - to help us."
While the advanced party prepares for the logistical arrival of the soldiers, Pakistani workers are aiding the base in preparing the soldiers' quarters, dining and sanitation services. And they're doing so on a hasty time schedule.
"Within five days we have to complete the whole camp. And day and night, almost 24 hours we are working here," said Mr. Qamar, a native of Islamabad.
"Day by day, efforts are to increase. People are very happy [with] this kind of aid coming from the whole world," he said. "People are also trying to do whatever they can do from their own pocket ... and the very affected people are getting the aid."