Ospreys, helicopters and 150 US troops joining quake relief efforts in Nepal
KATHMANDU, Nepal – The U.S. is sending six tilt-rotor V-22 Osprey aircraft along with conventional helicopters and 150 military personnel to Nepal to boost earthquake relief efforts.
3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade commander Brig. Gen. Paul Kennedy, who arrived Wednesday in Kathmandu with an advance party of Pacific Command troops, said the Ospreys would arrive Saturday.
The Nepalese government, which has only a few helicopters, is rushing much-needed aid to isolated villages hit by the April 25 quake, estimated to have killed more than 6,200 people.
“We are bringing in significant capacity,” Kennedy said Friday of the U.S. assets, which will include Air Force personnel out of Guam who can control air traffic, repair airfields and offload supplies with heavy equipment.
The Ospreys and two UH-1 Huey helicopters will be tasked with ferrying relief supplies and personnel from the international airport in Kathmandu to outlying areas, Kennedy said.
Some of the locations where the helicopters will fly are 18,000 feet above sea level.
Ospreys have seen extensive service in Afghanistan and deployed to the Philippines during relief efforts after Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in 2013. Flying in the Himalayas will be a new challenge, Kennedy said.
“They have never been in anything that approximates this,” he said.
However the mission in Nepal is something that the 3rd MEB is prepared to handle. The unit trained for earthquake response in Nepal twice in 2013 and again last year, Kennedy said.
“It seems unlikely that an amphibious force would come to this landlocked country but … this is a thing that we have anticipated for a few years.”
Kennedy, who visited Nepal during the disaster training, said beautiful brick buildings that he had seen in Kathmandu had been reduced to rubble by the earthquake.
The response of Army Special Forces troops out of Okinawa, who were doing cold weather training in Nepal when the earthquake struck, has been impressive, Kennedy said.
“They went to Mount Everest and started pulling people out,” he said. “It wasn’t just at Base Camp. They went up the mountain and they were pulling people out.”
The soldiers recovered the body of Google executive Dan Fredinburg from the mountain, he said.
“As soon as they were done with that, they were down here going out to villages doing first-aid and even search-and-rescue,” he said.