By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) R. David Valdez, Commander, Amphibious Squadron 3 Public Affairs
(NNS) -- The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps team, partnering with the Pakistani government, is moving from Ghazi to a southern location at Pano Aqil Air Base, near Sukkur, Pakistan, to support relief operations as flood waters move south.
Four CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 165 (Reinforced) (HMM-165 (REIN)) are the initial heavy-lift capable aircraft moving to Pano Aqil. Two of the helicopters arrived from Ghazi, and two more helicopters are flying in from amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu (LHA 5).
The transition will be complete when the CH-46E and CH-53E "Sea Stallion" helicopters from HMM-165 and the MH-53E helicopters from Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 15 (HM-15) also move from Ghazi to Pano Aqil.
"The contribution of the Navy and Marine Corps helicopters in northern Pakistan has been tremendous," said Rear Adm. Sinclair Harris, commander of Expeditionary Strike Group Five and the officer in charge of Task Force 59, the Navy's task force for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. "But the flood damage throughout Pakistan is extensive, and there is still a long way to go. We're working with the government of Pakistan to make an impact in other areas, as well."
U.S. Army helicopters are due to backfill the Navy and Marine Corps helicopters in the Swat Valley in the coming days ensuring there will be a continued effort between the U.S. military and the Pakistani government to assist people affected by the floods in the northern regions. he Army's Chinooks and UH-60 Blackhawks are well suited for the mountainous regions in the north, and their arrival allows the Navy and Marine helicopters to operate in the flatter terrain of the southern areas and provide more rapid support missions with Peleliu.
"USS Peleliu has supported the operations ashore throughout the relief efforts, and will continue to do so," said Harris. "Pano Aqil Air Base is closer to the ocean, therefore the ship's crew will be able to provide logistical support to the helicopters more quickly and more often."
San Diego-based amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu with the embarked 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) was the first Navy asset to arrive off the coast of Pakistan.
While the Peleliu/15th MEU team will remain in place as long as it's needed, the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group is on its way from Norfolk, Va. to relieve Peleliu and carry on the mission at hand.
To date, U.S. military aircraft supporting flood-relief efforts in Pakistan have transported more than 3 million pounds of humanitarian assistance supplies and rescued more than 11,000 people within Pakistan, delivering aid and providing transport to people who urgently need emergency assistance.
For more news from USS Peleliu, visit www.navy.mil/local/lha5/