Military News

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Alaska Reservist presented decoration for Nepal relief efforts

by Tech. Sgt. Dana Rosso
477th Fighter Group Public Affairs

10/27/2015 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR HICKAM, Hawaii  -- An Alaska Reservist was presented with a commendation medal for her work while supporting earthquake relief efforts in Nepal during a ceremony in the Courtyard of Heroes at the Pacific Air Force Headquarters Oct. 16.

"I deployed as the Joint Air Component Coordination Element Public Affairs officer in early May," said Maj. Ashley Conner, 477th Fighter Public Affairs officer. "The JACCE staged out of Thailand, but a small group of us went forward to Nepal with the 36th Contingency Response Group."

Once arriving in Nepal the CRG assisted the Nepalese accelerate airfield operations to increase the capacity to bring in aid via airlift, and ultimately distribute aid faster to those affected by the earthquake. Conner and Staff Sgt. Melissa White made up the Air Force Public Affairs team that went to work documenting the relief efforts, facilitating interviews and building relationships with partner nations.

Then on May 12 a second 7.3 magnitude earthquake hit just more than two weeks after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake devastated the nation.

"I had never felt an earthquake that strong before. In the distance you could see plumes of dust rising in the air as buildings began to collapse," she said.

The JTF had established a flightline aid station to receive injured Nepalese citizens that were transported to the airport from remote villages on U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Ospreys and UH-1Y Huey helicopters.

"When I arrived I saw children being treated for head injuries and other children being consoled while their parents received care. As a mom of two little girls, it was one of the hardest things to see," said Conner. "There were at least seven military photographers already documenting the activities, so I put down my camera and asked where they needed help."

The medical team lead sent Conner to the litter carry line to assist carrying patients from the aircraft to the medical tent.

"The first woman we transported was an elderly woman who had lost her leg in the earthquake. She was turned toward me on the cot and was chanting.  At one point she reached up to touch my face. I couldn't think of anything to say besides 'You are going to be okay'," said Conner.

"My grandmother saw these photos and said 'if I had been in that woman's situation, seeing your face would have been comforting.' That sentiment really hit home for me. Women, Peace and Security places importance on the need for women in relief and recovery operations to address the specific needs of women and children. My role and involvement that night was very small and there were many others who had a much greater impact, but I hope in some small way that my interaction -- whether through the women I helped that night or just my daily presence at the airport -- that I was able to have a positive impact on others during this operation."

In 2011 President Obama signed an Executive Order instituting a National Action plan on Women Peace and Security which recognizes that that promoting women's participation in conflict prevention, management, and resolution, as well as in post conflict relief and recovery, advances peace, national security, economic and social development, and international cooperation.

"The Air Force and the Department of Defense see the intrinsic value of women's roles in supporting areas affected by natural disasters," said Col. David Piffarerio, 477th Fighter Group commander. "Maj. Conner is a consummate professional and represented the U.S. military well in her support to the relief efforts in Nepal."

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