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Humanitarian relief remains constant priority

SOUTHWEST ASIA -- In a turbulent world, with natural disasters striking at random and conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan surging with a tide of violence, one thing has remained constant -- U.S. Air Force humanitarian relief operations.

These operations, planned out of the Combined Air Operations Center, have answered the call of those in need, from the bitter-cold Mountains of Afghanistan to the devastation left in the wake of the earthquake in Pakistan.

“The bottom line is -- we’re here to help people,” said Brig. Gen. Darren McDew, director of mobility forces at the CAOC.

And helping is exactly what these operations are doing, with more than 10 million pounds of aid delivered to Pakistan and more than 2.2 million pounds of aid consistently airdropped to Afghans in need.

A priority from day one, humanitarian relief began before the first bomb was dropped in Afghanistan, delivering items including food, blankets, firewood, clothing, building materials and school supplies.

“C-17s dropped daily humanitarian rations to the Afghan people in preparation for the conflict in their country,” General McDew said. “We continue to help them, but now we are able to come to the aid of a freely elected Afghan government.”

General McDew contends that helping the Afghan people meet basic needs allowed them to establish themselves as a free people.

“We want them to have a lot of the things that we take for granted in our own country,” he said. “Helping them with basic things for living -- food, a roof over their heads -- all of that comes as part and parcel with that responsibility.”

That responsibility rests largely on the shoulders of the dedicated Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines, working around the clock from the CAOC to plan and execute these missions, he said.

When asked if operations were making a difference, General McDew said, “We are absolutely making a difference, and we will continue to make humanitarian relief a priority.”

From the mission planners to the loadmasters who drop the pallets, everyone is proud of their involvement in what General McDew called, “this difficult, but noble work.”

“People see things dropping out of our aircraft, and they know these things are for them,” said Capt. Timothy Ryan, Air Mobility Division air-drop planner at the CAOC. “It really helps us win their hearts and it’s a great feeling.”