Myanmar - "Please bring more" Posted by: McQ
on Wednesday, May 14, 2008
I just had the opportunity to speak with the pilot of the initial US C130 into Myanmar this week (thanks to the Blogger's Roundtable). CPT Trevor Hall (USAF) described the flight in from Thailand, where he and his crew had been supporting a USMC exercise, as uneventful. But the one hour and forty-five minute flight took them in over part of the devastated area, which, according to Hall, had massive flooding, houses destroyed and trees blown down. By all appearances, little if anything was being done.
They touched down at Rangoon's airport (it's called something else now, but I'll stick with Rangoon) with 30,000 pounds of water, mosquito nets and blankets as well as the CINCPAC, Admiral Timothy Keating and the director of USAID, Henrietta Fore. Both were there on a diplomatic mission hoping to persuade the junta to open up the country to US aid. ADM Keating carried a letter from the State Department assuring the Myanmar government that our military would be bringing only aid supplies and experts to help in the country's recovery. The commander of Myanmar's navy met ADM Keating and Ms. Fore and took them to meet the appropriate people in that government.
Although Hall's was the first US C130 in, he noticed C130s from Greece, Malaysia and India on the ramp.
CPT Hall said that while the airport facility there at Rangoon seemed capable of handling large aircraft such as the C17, the offload capability was very limited. His aircraft was offloaded by hand by members of the military. Of course, forklifts, etc, needed to speed the offlift operation could be flown in if necessary.
The other obstacle to distribution of the supplies is the very limited capability of the Myanmar air force. It has a few helicopters and even fewer small fixed wing assets.
CPT Hall also noted something else which seemed curious to him. As they flew in to land they observed a fairly good road network in and around the airport extending out into the rest of the city and countryside. He was rather surprised to see very little if any traffic on most of it. Certainly not a sign that a major relief effort to help 1.5 million people in dire need was underway.
He said since the initial flight, 2 Marine C130s flew supplies in the next day, and today 1 USAF and 4 Marine aircraft are taking in medical and hygiene supplies, plastic sheeting, water and other miscellaneous supplies.
Hall said they didn't know, really, what to expect when they flew in. Naturally they had prepared for the worst case scenario, but were very pleasantly surprised by their warm and gracious reception. As he and the crew helped the Myanmarian troops offload the plane, he said that every attempt at communication in broken English was basically two messages. "Thank you" and "Please bring more".