TOP STORY >> Foreign aid keeps coming
Leader staff writer
Gov. Mike Huckabee visited Little Rock Air Force Base Tuesday to see first-hand the extent of the aid being delivered from foreign countries and from NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
When its converted Boeing 707 landed at the base Monday with 24,000 blankets, 600 cots and 14 large tents for those displaced by Hurricane Katrina, it marked the first time NATO’s newly formed rapid-reaction force has been used for humanitarian relief, according to Capt. Robert Firman, public information chief, who accompanied the supplies from Geilenkirchen, Germany.
The force was created to respond quickly to help stabilize hostilities and restore order in conflicts.
Firman said the 10 tons of blankets and cots — five pallets worth — were donated by the Czech Republic and said many more flights and boatloads of supplies would be coming from NATO, and that many NATO member nations had already delivered relief supplies to the base, which has been designated as the hub for international relief delivered by air.
The supplies were unloaded in about 30 minutes.
In the days since the base was designated as the hub for relief, 31 international flights have delivered 303 pallets of aid weighing 1,225 tons, according its public information office. That’s 2.45 million pounds.
Those pallets had been loaded onto semi-tractor trailers for delivery into the hurricane-ravaged area.
“Serving as the hub for international aid, Little Rock Air Force Base stands ready and able to take on the hundreds of thousands of tons of incoming relief supplies,” said Brig. Gen. Kip Self, who assumed command of the base only Friday. “Our airmen at the base continuously train to move people and supplies. This life-saving effort puts our training into action by helping victims of Hurricane Katrina.”
In addition to the NATO flight, planes from Belgium, China, Denmark, Egypt, France, Israel, Italy, Russia, Spain, Tunis, Thai-land and the United Nations had offloaded relief supplies at the base.
Disaster aid coming from China and Russia, former bitter Iron Curtain, Cold War enemies of the U.S., so impressed Vice Commander Col. Dave Watson, that he’s discussed it with his family.
“This is the good side of the wall coming down,” he said. “This is history in the making.”
Watson said he was further impressed by the Tunisian relief effort. They sent two cargo planes, one with “a full-blown colonel” each with two crews so they could fly shifts, stopping only for fuel.
As for the NATO aid, Firman said the U.S. requested NATO help on Thursday, the council voted Friday, and by Monday the 707 had been loaded, flown across the Atlantic Ocean and unloaded at Little Rock Air Force Base.
Col. Reinhard Mack, command pilot for the flight, said the rapid response was a demonstration of NATO teamwork, logistical capabilities and coordination.
Mack, a German who did his pilot training at Shepherd Air Force Base, said it gave him a good feeling to be involved in the relief.
In addition to unloading supplies, storing them and loading them onto trucks, base personnel have flown 31 sorties in support of Katrina relief, including 525 passengers and 84.25 tons.
Thirty-six airmen are deployed in support of Joint Task Force Katrina.