By Amaani Lyle
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii, May 29, 2015 – Since the April 25 magnitude-7.8 earthquake in Nepal that claimed the lives of about 10,000 people and left thousands more injured or missing, U.S. Army Pacific Command has dedicated significant resources to disaster response in Nepal.
Maj. Gen. James F. Pasquarette, USARPAC’s deputy commander, said in a recent interview that of his command’s many operational, humanitarian and disaster response measures, a series of disaster management exercises and exchanges called Pacific Resilience is key to helping partner armies and various nations, including China, respond and rebound more independently after natural disasters.
This can also “build trust and confidence that U.S. Army is able to come in and work with them if invited,” the general added.
USARPAC conducted disaster response exchanges and exercises with Nepal in 2011 and 2013, with another planned for this year, Pasquarette said, but real-life events have called for real-life response.
Humanitarian Assistance Support Teams
“It was a significant earthquake, so I don’t think any nation would be ready for everything. That’s why they have outside assistance,” the general said. “We have humanitarian assistance support teams that are on a rotating basis and can go out in a matter of hours [and] make an on-the-ground assessment.”
USARPAC also brings service-unique capabilities such as expeditionary engineering, aviation, command and control, civil affairs, water purification and mortuary affairs that can support the joint effort in other countries upon request and approval, Pasquarette said.
Disaster management exchanges with the People’s Liberation Army have yielded trust and confidence with China, he noted, and the Chinese military is operating side by side with USARPAC in Nepal.
“We are able to coordinate our activities based on our past experiences working with these disaster management exchanges,” the general said. “We’re proud of how we’ve done. … We think it’s important, given the high likelihood of disasters in the Pacific, [and] this is something we want to sustain.”
USARPAC and its partner nations also have benefitted from Pacific Pathways, an initiative in which the Army develops small units that to be forward-deployed for quick response to humanitarian emergencies or regional threats.
By chance, USARPAC Pacific Pathways already had a forward deployed aviation unit in the Philippines when the Nepal earthquake struck, Pasquarette said, adding that the aviation unit had previously operated in austere environments in both South Korea and the Philippines.
Though Marine Corps Forces Pacific provided the air support for the Nepal response, Pasquarette said, USARPAC stood ready to push the aviation capability into Nepal if called upon.
“That’s some of the capability that Pacific Pathways provides –- another tool that [U.S. Pacific Command] can consider in case of something unforeseen.”