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Saturday, January 22, 2005

Tsunami relief mission - firsthand report email..

I'm leaving this email just as iI received it ..
-----Original Message-----
From: Beverly Root []
Sent: Saturday, January 22, 2005 10:50 PM
To: Barbara Foerster
Subject: Re: Tsunami

> I hope you can find some worth in the mumble-jumble below.  I simply cut
> and
> paste from an email I sent to a friend in NJ.
> Take care, hombre
> Gabe
> While missing home is awfully distracting, staying focused on the job is
> not
> difficult. Flying requires the pilot's full attention. Also, these
> missions
> are incredibly rewarding. Who wouldn't want to wake up early knowing
> that
> they may deliver as much as 50,000 lbs of food/water to the tsunami
> victims?
> 2. This environment of destruction is shocking to everyone. Some of the
> salty guys have seen bodies floating in the water before, but nobody has
> seen this many. There's been a few missions where I'm flying around
> looking
> for a town to deliver food. I get to the town -- or at least what's
> supposed
> to be a town. All that's left is rubble and foundation -- no buildings,
> no
> trees, and no roads. After we circle the former town for couple minutes
> ....
> people start to emerge.
> 3. I do not miss the Persian Gulf. It's too hot and humid.
> 4. The force of the water must have been tremendous. Whole cities are
> leveled. Literately. Trees are on their sides -- laying flat, like
> tossed
> deck of cards. Bridges are gone. Boats and ships are beached -- some
> upside
> down.
> 5. You ask if I miss the shores of San Diego. Of course I do. Sometimes
> when
> we're flying up and down the coast of Indonesia, I see a good set of
> waves.
> For a fleeting second I think, "I wish I had my surfboard here." And
> then, I
> hear one of the crewmen say, "I just saw another dead body." This
> environment is surreal -- it's so beautiful, and yet so devastated.
> 6. One morning when I was getting ready to launch, there was an
> aftershock... rumor had it that it measured 8.0. I planned for the worst
> that day. No big waves came -- thank God.
> 7. The children are my favorite to watch when we drop off food and
> water.
> The children are so happy. They jump up and down. They wave. They give
> peace
> signs. They smile so big. The run to the helo... they try to carry bags
> of
> rice that are twice as big as they -- and they succeed! The other day I
> had
> a group of young children cheering "America! America! America" as they
> danced in front of my window. When we take-off out of LZs (landing
> zones)
> the children like to do kart-wheels because the rotor wash blows them
> over.
> The adults are also thankful -- but I can see the pain in their eyes.
> They
> know that after the excitement of our helo drops wait years of recovery.
> I've seen the adults get physical as they compete for the food. It's
> terribly sad. You may have seen on ABC yesterday/today now rowdy the
> crowd
> gets when we off-load food/water/supplies.
> 8. For the most part, the crowds are cooperative and thankful. When the
> local military (TNI) are present, our off-loads are pretty easy. The
> local
> military keeps good order -- I'm impressed by their professionalism.
> When
> there's no TNI, we're really cautious. Without the military, basic human
> nature takes over. The Indonesian people are trying to survive -- the
> demand
> for supplies is high and the assets are limited. On rare occasion, the
> people get a bit our of control. I've already experience the limit of my
> comfort. If it gets uncomfortable, we simply close the doors to the
> helo.
> That sends a signal to the people that we'll leave if they don't
> cool-off.
> If they continue to be unruly, then we simply take-off and drop
> elsewhere.
> . My mission is to help the victims of the tsunami. I'm best at helping
> by
> delivering food, water, medical supplies, and doctors to the victims. I
> also
> help by medevacing or relocating those in need. We pickup our supplies
> primarily from Banda Aceh. We then fly the supplies to the villages.
> Most of
> the time we land to empty the helo. There have been a few times when
> we've
> had to do hover transfers because the ground is too muddy to land on. On
> one
> occurrence, we did a hover transfer because the only open area was
> someone's
> farm, and I didn't want to damage the crop.
> 4. Describe what I see? This is tough. I haven't taken time to really
> reflect on what I've seen. Imagine if someone asked you to describe a
> nightmare. You'd probably rather not. Bodies are floating in the
> ocean...
> along the coast -- 75 miles out to sea -- the death and destruction is
> everywhere. The medevacs are the most difficult missions. One time, we
> filled the helo with 16 people -- more than half were critical medevacs.
> People carried their loved-ones in blankets as make-shift stretchers to
> my
> aircraft. I had a toddler burned all over and her mother burned on half
> her
> body -- I couldn't imagine their story. My crewchief had brought a few
> stuffed animals from donators on our ship. He gave the burned child a
> stuffed animal. She smiled.
> It's difficult to describe what I see without describing how I feel. I
> feel
> proud to be helping. The first day I was here was the most productive
> day of
> my life. My second day's missions were even more productive than the
> first.
> As a team we are becoming increasingly more efficient at helping the
> Indonesian people. While I see destruction and pain as the backdrop to
> our
> missions, I also see the best of mankind. I see an effective
> international
> movement to help the sick, starving, and homeless. I'm proud to be
> affecting
> positive change.
> The first couple days were difficult to navigate from the helo. We were
> using pre-tsunami charts. Those charts are near worthless for coastal
> navigation. Where there used to be towns along the coast, there's now
> ocean
> -- or in some cases, where there used to be blocks and blocks of
> buildings,
> only the foundations remain.
> As far as supplies are concerned: Clothing is not the first priority.
> Think
> of your hierarchy of needs.... medical, water, food, shelter... that's
> what
> we're working towards. Clothing? Clothing is more like next month.
> 5. The people we're helping are primarily in remote locations. I say
> remote
> because what used to be towns/cities are now gone. Maybe these people
> were
> once part of a bigger city -- but the city is gone now.
> 6. I fly the MH-60S Knighthawk. It's the Navy's newest helicopter. We
> can
> deliver about 5,000 lbs of cargo to the remote locations. That's a lot
> more
> than any of the other helos out here. I'm not sure if I'm allowed to
> report
> numbers to you, so for now, just know that what my team of 2 helos have
> delivere is comparable to 10 of the other helos in the past 5 days. My
> helo
> is the best out there for this mission -- it's only weakness is that it
> can
> only fly for about 2 hours before it needs more fuel.


Stay in your heart. Regardless of what happens, stay in your heart.

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