KATHMANDU, Nepal – The Nepalese government and private organizations have postured for long-term recovery and reconstruction efforts, allowing Joint Task Force 505 to draw down its earthquake relief operations and return home.
The U.S. military created Joint Task Force 505 in response to the Nepalese government’s request for U.S. aid on April 29 after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the country April 25. A second earthquake of 7.3 magnitude struck Nepal May 12. The earthquakes killed more than 8,600 people, injured more than 16,800, and destroyed more than 770,000 homes.
Personnel from 24 different countries came to the aid of Nepal for operation Sahayogi Haat, “helping hand” in Nepali, by bringing medical equipment, aircraft and supplies to be distributed to the areas most affected by the earthquake.
The United States effort was led by the U.S. Agency for International Development/Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance. Total U.S. humanitarian assistance for the Nepal earthquake response exceeded $47 million. At the direction of USAID, JTF 505 was called on for its unique capabilities to transport supplies into Nepal with heavy-lift airplanes and deliver aid to remote locations using tiltrotor aircraft and helicopters.
“USAID is the lead federal agency for responding to disasters overseas,” said Bill Berger, USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team leader. “We have the ability to tap any resource within the U.S. government that we need.”
About 900 U.S. military personnel participated in the Nepal relief efforts. There were about 300 JTF 505 Forward personnel in Nepal, 320 with JTF 505 Main in Okinawa, Japan, and 280 at the Intermediate Staging Base in Thailand.
Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 469, part of JTF 505 Forward, was in the Philippines for Exercise Balikatan during the first earthquake. The squadron moved from the Philippines to Nepal as soon as the Nepalese government requested aid from the U.S.
“We recognize that the Nepalese people have suffered a loss of thousands of their own citizens,” said U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. John Wissler, the commanding general of JTF 505. “We will continue to stand with Nepal, as long as our friends need our help.”
International aid flooded into the Tribhuvan International Airport in response to the devastating earthquakes. The U.S. Air Force's 36th Contingency Response Group assigned to JTF 505 provided airfield logistics support in close coordination with the government of Nepal to ensure aid was quickly and efficiently distributed.
The CRG's efficient logistics throughput was magnified by the airlift capabilities of four Marine Corps MV-22B Ospreys, three Marine Corps UH-1Y Hueys helicopters, four Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft, four Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft and four Marine Corps KC-130J Hercules aircraft. The aircraft have flown approximately 250 hours, transported 553 personnel, conducted 69 casualty evacuations and delivered approximately 120 tons of aid to the Nepalese people in support of Operation Sahayogi Haat.
The U.S. brought a diverse amount of aid to Nepal, according to Maj. Brad Fultz, the multi-national military coordination center liaison officer for JTF 505.
“The U.S. provided shelter, food, water and hygiene materials,” said Fultz. “But, American aid to Nepal must be measured in more than just goods. The DOD provides logistical and transportation support and USAID distributes funding to reliable non-government organizations like the World Food Program, Save the Children and the International Organization of Migration who are all doing meaningful and impactful work.”
USAID/OFDA, with transport from JTF 505, delivered 6,200 rolls of plastic sheeting to provide temporary shelter for about 310,000 people. They also airlifted 1,860 metric tons of rice and 20 metric tons of high energy biscuits, which reached more than 1 million people across Nepal.
“The aid provided by the global community will impact millions of lives in both tangible and intangible ways,” said Fultz.