Isle Army, Air Guard bringing aid to Samoans


POSTED: Thursday, October 01, 2009

Survivors of Tuesday's devastating, early-morning earthquake and tsunami that struck America Samoa and Samoa need tents, cots, water and medical supplies, says the Pacific Command's top enlisted soldier.

Command Sgt. Maj. Iuniasolua Savusa, who was born in American Samoa, is part of the nearly 100-member contingent of Hawaii Army Air and Army Guard medical, communication, and search-and-rescue specialists who left for American Samoa yesterday on two separate Air Force C-17 Globemaster cargo jets. Both cargo jets were crewed by personnel from the Hawaii Air Guard's 204th Airlift Squadron.

The frigate USS Ingraham from Everett Naval Station in Washington state was to arrive in American Samoa last night. The Ingraham was en route to American Samoa for a refueling stop, a Pacific Fleet spokesman said. It carries two SH-60 Seahawk helicopters that can conduct rescue operations.

The Pacific Command has delegated the humanitarian relief operation to the Pentagon's Joint Task Force Homeland Defense at Fort Shafter.

Savusa, 51, hasn't heard from his brothers and sisters since four large waves hit American Samoa.

“;I remain hopeful and optimistic,”; said Savusa, who arrived at Camp Smith last week to become the enlisted adviser to Adm. Timothy Keating, who heads the Pacific Command, and Adm. Robert Willard, who assumes Keating's post next week.

His job during the next four days is “;to see firsthand the damage that has occurred and to help assess the situation on the ground.”;

“;I am hoping to feed back information as fast as I can,”; said Savusa, who has served one combat tour in Iraq and three in Afghanistan during his 34 years in the military.

He said his information will help the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the State Department determine the type of aid that will be funneled to the South Pacific islands through the Pacific Command.

He said one of the immediate needs will be mortuary and refrigeration equipment to handle the fatalities. At least 119 people were killed following the magnitude-8.3 earthquake.

Savusa, who arrived at Camp Smith after a tour in Afghanistan, said the last time he was home was two years ago while he was stationed in Germany.

“;I wish I could go back home under other conditions,”; Savusa told reporters.

First Sgt. John Andoe, who is the ranking enlisted soldier in the Hawaii Army National Guard's 93rd Civil Support Team, said nine people from his unit will make “;an initial assessment of hazardous material”; on the island.

The Hawaii National Guard contingent spent yesterday morning at Hickam Air Force Base loading the C-17 with pallets of water, power generators and military rations known as MREs. The flight was one of two that left Hickam yesterday for the nine-hour flight to Pago Pago, 2,600 miles south of Hawaii.

;[Preview]    Local Military Groups Provide Relief In Samoa

The Hawaii National Guard, U.S. Army, The Air Force, and the Coast Guard head to American Samoa to assist in relief efforts.

Watch ]


A third National Guard C-17 was to leave today with more relief supplies.

Relief supplies started leaving Hawaii on Tuesday night on a Coast Guard C-130 plane. It also carried FEMA officials and American Samoa Gov. Togiola Tulafono, who was in Hawaii on business. It landed at American Samoa's capital, Pago Pago, where debris had been cleared from runways to allow emergency planes to land.

Another relief flight was sponsored by Hawaiian Airlines. Bank of Hawaii and Hawaiian Airlines each contributed $10,000 for the purchase of 40,000 pounds of food, water, bedding and other necessities, which were ferried on a Hawaiian Airlines jet that left here yesterday carrying relief workers. Other goods were donated by Wal-Mart and a City Mill hardware store.

Also on board were 35 Hawaiian Airlines employees who will help distribute the supplies, which include tents, water, rice, flashlights and paper goods. About half of those employees have relatives in American Samoa.

Bank of Hawaii also donated $25,000 to its Tsunami Disaster Relief Assistance fund. Checks made out to Bank of Hawaii American Samoa Relief Fund can be left at any of the bank's branches.