By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Aaron Cram
Special to American Forces Press Service
Oct. 9, 2009 - Airmen with the 353rd Special Operations Group here are supporting humanitarian relief operations near Padang in western Indonesia after a 7.6 magnitude earthquake and a slightly smaller one struck Sept. 29 and Oct. 1, military officials reported. Members of the 320th Special Tactics Squadron and 17th Special Operations Squadron from here were already in Indonesia for a training exchange designed to enhance U.S and Indonesian military training and capabilities and to increase interoperability.
"The devastating earthquakes that hit the Padang area are tragic," said Air Force Col. John Glaze, deputy commander for the 353rd. "As part of the coordinated relief efforts, the 'Air Commandos' are truly dedicated to helping the people of Indonesia through this disaster.
"We are already working tirelessly with our Indonesian counterparts and all of the partners participating in this relief operation and will continue to do so until our mission is done."
Starting Oct. 2, 353rd airmen and members of an Indonesian air force special operations branch began moving emergency response teams, equipment and relief supplies to the Padang area aboard a MC-130P Combat Shadow assigned to the 17th Special Operations Squadron.
Since beginning their participation in relief efforts, 353rd and Indonesian air force members have surveyed the area surrounding Padang and provided damage assessments to relief coordinators along with personnel and cargo movements into the affected areas, officials said.
In the days to come, 353rd and Indonesian air force members will continue to move emergency response teams, equipment and relief supplies and provide damage assessments throughout the affected area.
Combat controllers from the teams also will survey possible airfields and landing zones to possibly expand the relief operations. Combat controllers are trained special operations forces and certified air traffic controllers. They can establish airfields while simultaneously conducting air traffic control, command and control, and humanitarian assistance in austere locations.
(Air Force Tech. Sgt. Aaron Cram serves with the 353rd Special Operations Group.)