Military's mission of aid


POSTED: Monday, October 05, 2009

Adm. Timothy “;Timbo”; Keating called it a “;normal day,”; but last Thursday and the days since have been a humanitarian marvel following a multi-venue disaster in Asia and the Pacific. With each hurricane, earthquake and tsunami comes improvement in response by nations and organizations with the purpose and ability to help in profound ways.

As chief of the Hawaii-based U.S. Pacific Command, Keating has been a key player in responding to the deadly tsunami in Samoa, American Samoa and Tonga, helping the Philippines cope with a tropical storm and “;super typhoon”; and sending assistance to Indonesia in the wake of a 7.6-magnitude earthquake—all at the same time.

Cooperation among numerous governments and organizations has evolved from an earthquake-generated tsunami in 2004 that killed nearly 230,000 people in countries surrounding the Indian Ocean. The unprecedented natural disaster triggered worldwide humanitarian aid of more than $7 billion.

The multiple disasters of the past week have been unusual because of their occurrence in such a short period. Most of the attention in Hawaii has focused on Samoa, the origin of many Hawaii residents. Quick to respond were the United Nations' Disaster Assessment and Coordination, the emergency response team of the Children's Fund, and its Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization—known better as UNDAC, UNICEF AND UNESCO—and the World Health Organization with medical supplies.

Providing expanded assistance have been humanitarian organizations such as Save the Children, World Vision and, of course, American Red Cross. Rudolph von Bermuth, emergencies director of Save the Children, told The Wall Street Journal, “;We've very consciously developed this since the 2004 tsunami in areas which are recurrently hit by disaster.”;

The Navy in the Pacific has long been counted upon to respond. Following President Barack Obama's declaration of a national disaster, five transport aircraft delivered search and rescue teams, food and supplies to American Samoa, along with a frigate with two helicopters for rescue missions.

Keating sent hundreds of marines aboard three ships to the coast of Manila to provide medical care and other help as needed. He ordered a C-130 military transport plane loaded with aid supplies to Indonesia, and another U.S. ship carrying three large helicopters and other smaller helicopters.

While all these movements were under way, Keating told the Star-Bulletin's Gregg K. Kakesako that the humanitarian missions embody the strategy's components of “;presence, readiness and partnership.”; Not to mention deserved pride.