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NEWS | May 26, 2010

Air Guardsmen provide humanitarian assistance in Tajikistan

By Master Sgt. Kimberley Harrison USAFCENT Combat Camera

SOUTHWEST ASIA - More than 17,000 pounds of humanitarian cargo was delivered to Tajikistan May 21, in an ongoing effort to provide relief and medical aid to displaced Tajiks after floods and mudslides devastated the Kulyab District earlier this month.

A C-130 Hercules crew from the 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, transported five pallets of emergency medical supplies and hygiene kits in response to a request for humanitarian assistance by Republic of Tajikistan government officials.

"It's our job to get the mission done as safely and effectively as we can," said Maj. Kurt Amundson, a C-130 pilot with the 109th Airlift Squadron of the Minnesota Air National Guard. "People's lives depend on the humanitarian cargo we deliver."

This was the second shipment arranged by the U. S. Embassy officials in Dushanbe, Tajikistan's capital.

Within hours of the flooding, Army Lt. Col. Larry Harrison, the U.S. Embassy defense attaché, had a team in the Kuylab District assessing the damage and humanitarian requirements.

"From the time I hung up the phone from (U.S. Central Command officials) requesting assistance, there was an aircraft on the ground within 36 hours," said Harrison, the senior U.S. military leader in Tajikistan.

The first shipment arrived May 16, when an C-17 Globemaster III flew directly into Kulyab with 13 pallets of tents used to house thousands of displaced Tajik families in the city's main football stadium.

"This shipment contained five pallets of medical supplies and hygiene kits, which will be distributed throughout the surrounding areas of Kulyab by the Civil Affairs team," Harrison said.

Within 30 minutes of landing, members from the U.S. Embassy Civil-Affairs team and the French air detachment removed the pallets from the aircraft and loaded them onto trucks.

"I don't have the words to express my gratitude (about) how well everyone came together to make this happen," Colonel Harrison said. "All areas requiring assistance have been identified and the civil-affairs team will be going out to the affected areas and conducting medical capabilities exercises."

"It's truly impressive what CENTCOM is doing here," said Ken Gross, the U. S. ambassador to Tajikistan.

According to a U.S. Embassy officials, the floods killed at least 22 people, leaving another 50 missing, more than 200 injured and more than 2,000 displaced.

The third and final shipment of medical aid containing Polio, Hepatitis-A, Yellow Fever and Malaria vaccinations were delivered to Tajikistan May 23.

"This medicine is very important to the Tajiks because in the aftermath of a flood, there will be high incidences of water-borne illnesses," said Army Sgt. Aaron Wright, an Army special operations medical specialist for civil affairs. "Having the medication on hand, we'll be able to treat and reduce those cases significantly before it can become an epidemic."

"It is good to know that we have a friend we can count on in this region when the unpredictable happens," said Tajik Gen. Khaibullo Latipov, the chairman of Tajikistan's Committee of Emergency Situations and Civil Defense.