Joint Task Force 505 begins drawdown in Nepal

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KATHMANDU, Nepal — Joint Task Force 505 is drawing down its earthquake relief operations as the Nepalese government, and international aid agencies have postured for long-term recovery and reconstruction efforts.

Nepal announced its transition from relief operations to the recovery phase of disaster response May 19.

“We are grateful for the essential contributions of Operation Sahayogi Haat to the post-earthquake relief efforts,” said Peter Bodde, the U.S. ambassador to Nepal. “The joint relief missions conducted by the U.S. and Nepalese militaries brought life-saving aid to those who needed it most and reinforced the United States’ close partnership with Nepal and its people.”

The redeployment of JTF 505 units in the coming days is able to occur quickly because the capacity of Nepal and the international community to meet the needs of the relief effort continues to grow and “together they are able to meet the requirements the U.S. joint task force would otherwise provide,” said Bill Berger, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s disaster assessment response team leader.

Emergency supplies

During the operation, JTF 505 delivered about 114 tons of emergency relief supplies, including plastic sheeting, shelter kits, blankets, water, medical supplies, and emergency and supplemental food in support of USAID. In addition to delivering aid, the task force transported 534 personnel and conducted 63 casualty evacuations.

Demand has decreased for unique JTF 505 capabilities in further recovery efforts, said Marine Corps Lt. Gen. John Wissler, the JTF 505 commander.

Aid stockpiles are no longer backlogged because of the logistical expertise of the 36th Contingency Response Group, a uniquely qualified Air Force unit out of Guam specializing in airfield management. The 36th CRG have trained members of the Nepalese army and airport personnel during their ongoing operations.

“We will continue to work closely with our Nepalese partners and USAID to ensure we meet the needs that may emerge during the coordinated transition and retrograde of our military capabilities as long as we remain in Nepal,” Wissler said. “Once we have returned to Okinawa, we will reset our ability to respond to any future disasters requiring our support. We stand with Nepal.”

This experience has forged a stronger relationship, Wissler said. “I look forward to future training opportunities to further improve our interoperability, refine our bilateral and multilateral processes, and continue to learn from our experiences working side by side,” he added.

Air assets

JTF 505 contributed three Marine Corps UH-1Y Hueys and four Marine Corps MV-22B Ospreys to the relief effort throughout Nepal. Additionally, four Air Force C-17 Globemaster IIIs, four Air Force C-130 Hercules and two Marine Corps KC-130J Hercules, as well as various ground and aviation command and control assets, contributed to the effort.

About 900 U.S. military and civilian personnel from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps contributed to the Nepal relief efforts under the joint task force’s auspices. About 300 task force personnel worked in Nepal, 320 others worked in the main headquarters in Japan, and 280 worked at the intermediate staging base in Thailand.

JTF 505 initiated Operation Sahayogi Haat — meaning “helping hand” in Nepali — to limit further loss of life and human suffering in response to the devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck central Nepal April 25, and continued the response after the 7.4-magnitude earthquake that struck May 12. More than 8,600 people died, and more than 16,000 were injured as a result of the earthquakes, according to latest official numbers.

“We people, are men and women of the armed forces,” said Maj. Gen. Binoj Basnyat, the commandant of the Nepalese army’s command and staff college. “We understand each other; we know what the need is. So it has been a tremendous help for us while you were here, and helping us to get things in the proper direction. It’s been a great help.”