KATHMANDU, Nepal --
Ten U.S. Air Force air advisors from the 36th Contingency Response Group at Andersen Air Force Base embarked on a journey over 4,000 miles away from the tropical island of Guam to the mountainous country of Nepal where they participated in a subject-matter expert exchange with 20 members from the Nepalese Army, Nepal Police, Nepal Armed Police Force, Nepal Airlines and Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal from Aug. 21-25, 2017.
The exchange was hosted at the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu and was focused on sharing ideas and techniques about cargo handling, warehouse management, vehicle maintenance, forklift operations, first responder medical care and patient transport.
In 2015, Nepal was struck by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake followed by a series of aftershocks that killed over 8,000 people and left many injured, without shelter, food, supplies or medical care. Besides the dangers of earthquakes, Nepal is also currently facing the worst rains in 15 years which have caused severe flooding and wreaked havoc across the country causing hundreds of deaths and left thousands homeless.
“This was the third exchange since the 2015 earthquake and each year we continue to build a stronger relationship with our Nepalese counterparts,” said Maj. Ian Bertram, 36 CRG Air Advisor commander. “We appreciate Nepal’s eagerness to host engagements such as this, which are critical to advancing our ability to operate together in a time of disaster.”
During the warehouse portion, participants were given an opportunity to tour the Nepal Airlines cargo warehouse to see firsthand how they receive, distribute, and store cargo. This opportunity allowed for an exchange of ideas on property control, storage segregation, hazardous material storage, pilferage control measures and most importantly personnel safety.
By sharing different storage techniques, and discussing methods that would minimize property damages parties learned how to regain operations faster after a disaster.
“These are critical skills that not only help us to develop a stronger partnership, but also improve interoperability during disaster relief operations,” said Tech. Sgt. Roxana Aguilar, cargo and warehouse management exchange lead. “Cargo handling and warehouse management are areas that are often not taken into account during disasters and often result in bottle neck distribution problems, missing property, increased smuggling of illegal items and unnecessary delays in critical asset delivery.”
Immediately after the cargo tour, the participants ventured onto the United Nations World Food Programme Humanitarian Staging Area where they learned how they responded to the 2015 earthquakes and how they are prepared to respond to a crisis in the future. More than 88,800 cubic meters of humanitarian relief cargo including food, medication, emergency shelters and sanitation equipment was processed through HSA after the 2015 earthquakes.
“I was here for the 2015 earthquake and the SME-exchange last year, I’ve learned something new each time, and I’m continuing to build greater relationships,” said Tech. Sgt. Robert Koon, team sergeant. “Being able to tour these facilities gave all of us a better understanding of how these agencies operate so that we can continue better integrate with them if the time ever arises.”
The vehicle maintenance portion facilitated by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Hill, 36 CRG focused on ways to increase vehicle reliability and functionality by outfitting them to handle the harsh environment and endure continued use. Participants also collaborated on ways to control tools and store spare parts.
The cargo handling portion allowed each member to practice forklift operations to better familiarize themselves with ways to move cargo safely, yet rapidly.
“The ability to off-load and transport cargo quickly is vital to ensuring supplies are distributed where they need to go and to those that need them the most, especially during a disaster,” said Tech. Sgt. John Rios 36 Mobility Response Squadron, air transportation specialist.
Once everyone was familiar with the functions of the forklift, it was time for the competition to begin.
The groups were then broken out into two-man teams with one driver and one spotter where they competed for the fastest time to navigate an obstacle course. The teams began by driving their way through a course outlined with tires and then to an area where they picked up a pallet from a truck. From there they transported the pallet to another predetermined area. Once the pallet was placed, the teams then had to navigate the course in reverse back to the starting point.
“Nepal is a landlocked country that doesn’t have any large bodies of water, so air transport is the key to getting supplies into the country as fast as possible,” said Bertram. “Having the ability to unload, transport and disseminate supplies could become a matter of life or death during a natural disaster, and the skills learned this week have improved our interoperability and we’ve built an even greater partnership.”
The last event was the medical portion where the two-man teams then participated in a timed challenge to see who could properly treat their patient and transport them the fastest. Each team was first tasked with controlling the bleeding of two simulated patients and then transporting one to an awaiting helicopter and the other to a truck.
“These basic medical skills practiced here today are vital, especially if you are the first one arriving on scene,” said Tech. Sgt. Toni Whitfield 36 MRS, independent duty medical technician. “Having the ability to quickly control bleeding, immobilize a broken limb and prepare a patient for evacuation could be the determining factor on whether or not someone survives.”