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Bolstering partnerships: USAF, Nepal exchange disaster relief best practices

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Benjamin Gonsier
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs
Ten Airmen assigned to the 36th Contingency Response Group at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, participated with various Nepali organizations in a subject-matter expert exchange at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu June 24 to July 9.

More than 20 members from the Nepal Army, Nepal Police, Armed Police Force and Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal joined the Airmen in a cargo handling knowledge exchange.

“We worked directly with the Nepal government entities during the disaster relief operations in Nepal last year,” said Capt. Brint Ingersoll, 36th Contingency Response Group air adviser unit deputy director. “This SMEE program enables us 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.”

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.

“These exchanges have been going on for years, and the earthquakes showed us firsthand all of the value we received from previous exchanges,” Ingersoll said. “The earthquake taught us we did a lot of good in Nepal during the disaster relief operation, but it also showed us that there are a few gaps we would like to work on and close.”

The SMEE program bolsters the partnership between various organizations and creates a foundation of familiarity between the participants. The experience and trust gained from these exchanges will enable international organizations to hit the ground running with little to no delay during another disaster.

“This SMEE is another example of Pacific Air Forces commitment to the Nepalese people and government,” said Capt. Asim Khan, PACAF strategy, plans and programs South Asia country director. “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.”

PACAF holds SMEE programs throughout the year at various locations in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, yet it is even more critical to hold these exchanges in Nepal to create familiarity, Khan said. Nepal is surrounded by mountains and has no large bodies of water surrounding it, making the airborne component of disaster relief operations more critical.

“It would be difficult to replicate the type of environment Nepal has anywhere else, so actually having the opportunity to practice where we execute real-world missions is tremendously valuable,” Khan said. “This is the only PACAF engagement in Nepal this year, so it is crucial the 36th CRG is here and cargo handling and disaster relief topics are reviewed and practiced.”

By coming to Nepal and showing commitment, teams strengthened the relationship between both countries, Ingersoll said.

“I appreciate the government of Nepal, especially the participants of this exchange, and their commitment to hosting the SMEE,” Ingersoll said. “While these exchanges help us all, it provides Nepal the tools to handle natural disasters on their own. By demonstrating to its people that they are able to respond to a disaster and take care of its citizens, Nepal is able to solidify itself even more.”

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