PANO AQIL, Pakistan --
Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Nadeem Ahmed, Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Chairman, U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Mike LeFever, Defense Representative to Pakistan (ODR-P) Commander, Maj. Gen. Nasrullah Tahir Dogar, Pakistan Army's 16 Division Commander, along with Philippe Martou, Chief of Aviation for the World Food Program, and a number of U.S. and Pakistan servicemembers, marked the end of U.S. Marine Corps helicopter flood relief operations during a ceremony Nov. 10 at Pano Aqil Cantonment, Sindh Province, Pakistan.
The three leaders gave thanks and bid farewell to the humanitarian airlift team of Pano Aqil: Pakistan Army’s 16 Division, the U.S. 26th and 15th Marine Expeditionary Units, and the World Food Program. The team had provided emergency humanitarian airlift via U.S. Marine helicopters since Sept. 3, delivering urgently needed relief supplies across flood-torn southern Pakistan.
"The job is not yet over, but largely the lead part is coming to an end," said Nadeem of the transition from urgent humanitarian airlift to follow-on recovery and reconstruction projects.
With the waters receding and road transportation becoming viable again, the Government of Pakistan requested the U.S. Marine Corps conclude its mission; their last flight was on Nov. 3.
“Here at Pano Aqil, on the 235th birthday of the US Marine Corps, we mark the occasion of a mission well done by a combined team of tireless first responders: the Pakistan Army’s 16 Division, the World Food Program, and the 15th and 26th Marine Expeditionary Units of the U.S.,” said LeFever.
“This extraordinary team worked around the clock to deliver nearly 4 million pounds of relief supplies [approximately 1.8 million kilograms] to about 150 locations in the Sindh Province,” he said.
"The operation made the difference between life and death for many people totally surrounded by water who could not be reached by any other way," said Nasrullah, noting the gratitide of Pakistanis affected by the flood.
Although U.S. military helicopter operations in southern Pakistan have concluded, U.S. commitment to supporting Pakistan’s flood relief and recovery effort remains strong.
LeFever pointed to several examples of continued support.
“At Pakistan’s request, we continue to provide helicopter support at Ghazi Aviation Base,” he said.
“Also, the U.S. Government is providing more than $463 million to assist Pakistan with relief and recovery efforts. Meanwhile, USAID and other U.S. civilian agencies continue to provide assistance to flood victims,” said LeFever.
To date, U.S. military personnel and aircraft, working in close partnership with the Pakistan military, have delivered more than 23 million pounds (10 million kilograms) of international relief supplies and provided humanitarian airlift for more than 34,000 people throughout flood-affected areas.
“These American and Pakistani servicemembers and their partners from the World Food Program can take great pride in their accomplishments; they will long remember their roles and contributions towards the preservation of life following one of the most devastating natural disasters in Pakistan's history,” noted LeFever.
In closing, LeFever said “It has been a great honor for us to be a part of this humanitarian mission and help the people of southern Pakistan in the wake of the tragic monsoon floods.”