US Air Force prepares Nepalese security forces for “future natural disasters”

Nepal earthquake
Tech. Sgt. Randy Walgren, 36th Contingency Response Group, signals to a forklift operator to lower the forks as cargo is prepared for transport during a subject-matter expert exchange June 29, 2016 (Photo by U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Gonsier)

Ten men from United States Air Force and 20 members of Nepalese security forces including Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal are currently participating in a ‘subject-matter expert exchange’ (SMEE) to bolster Nepal’s ability to respond in case of emergency situations, such as last year’s mega earthquake.

The SMEE, which is basically a ‘cargo handling knowledge exchange’, will put Nepal in a better position of preparedness should major natural disaster hit the Himalayan nation again. It is noteworthy that Nepal and US have had longstanding cooperation in the sphere of disaster management which is how American assets were deployed in the country within hours of April 25 earthquake.

The exercise began on June 24 at the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu and will run up to July 9, a news release by US Air Force said today.

The 10 airmen are from the US Air Force’s 36th Contingency Response Group at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam while the ongoing exchange of ‘disaster relief best practices’ is part of the ongoing US-Nepal cooperation. It was this existing network and ‘familiarity’ between the two sides that enabled US Air Force’s quick delivery of service to the TIA when the 7.8 magnitude temblor hit the mountain nation on 25 April 2015.

According to Capt. Brint Ingersoll, the 36th Contingency Response Group air adviser unit deputy director, the programme has enabled the US Air Force “to build upon the momentum we gained last year and pave the way for preparing us and them to project airpower for future natural disasters or contingency operations.”

“These exchanges have been going on for years, and the earthquakes showed us firsthand all of the value we received from previous exchanges,” a post by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Gonsier of US Pacific Command further quoted Capt. Ingersoll as saying. Last year’s disaster and the ensuing emergency response by US forces showed that they ‘did a lot of good in Nepal during the disaster relief operation’ but at the same time the operation also showed them the areas of improvement. Capt Ingersoll said that his department would like to work on those ‘few gaps’ and ‘close’ them.

According to US Air Force, these continuing sessions would create “a foundation of familiarity between the participants” and will “will enable international organizations to hit the ground running with little to no delay during another disaster”.

“The exchange focused on all elements of cargo handling, which included operating a forklift, transporting pallets and loading cargo onto a small plane. The participants also collaborated on the different aspects of disaster relief efforts, to include the varying strengths of land, air and sea service components and how the combination of capabilities helps deliver aid,” the news release by Pacific Command said.

“Nepal is more prone to natural disasters and the likelihood of their being another catastrophic event is high. These exchanges help increase all of our preparedness levels,” another US Air Force officer, Capt. Asim Khan, was quoted as saying.

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