Hawaii troopsBy Gregg K. Kakesako
At least 90 Pacific Air Forces personnel, including some based in Hawaii, will contribute to the latest U.S. peacekeeping efforts in East Timor, an Air Force two-star general says.
Maj. Gen. Thomas C. Waskow, Pacific Air Forces director of air and space operations, yesterday told reporters that five of his staff officers from Hickam Air Force Base already have been dispatched to Darwin in northern Australia.
They are part of a contingent of at least 37 military planners and communications specialists sent to Australia over the past few weeks to boost the Australian-led efforts.
The U.S. mission of 200 service members are led by Marine Brig. Gen. John Castellaw, deputy commander of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force on Okinawa.
Half of the 200 U.S. troops are expected to end up in East Timor. The troops will be drawn from Japan, Okinawa and Hawaii.
Waskow said it isn't clear how long the U.S. force will be needed, but it estimated that they will be there for at least a month.
Waskow was on the Hickam flight line yesterday while a C-130 cargo plane from the 517th Airlift Squadron at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, Alaska, stopped for refueling while en route to East Timor.
There are already two Air Force C-130 cargo aircraft in Darwin, the main support base for the peacekeeping operations and launch point for all operations.
A 15-member planning cell from the Pacific Command at Camp Smith has been there for nearly two weeks. An extra group of 17 communications specialists arrived there from Pearl Harbor this weekend.
Capt. Mark Leavitt, C-130 pilot, said he was shuttling maintenance and medical personnel to Darwin along with supplies.
Capt. Mark Benyo, an intelligence officer, said he initially was briefed that most of the cargo and supply flights will be within Australia in support of the multinational effort.
Waskow later told reporters, however, he envisions Air Force pilots flying daily supply missions to Dili in East Timor.