By Senior Airman J.G. Buzanowski, USAF
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Oct. 6, 2006 – A joint team of airmen and soldiers is in Pakistan preparing for Operation Promise Keeping, a follow-up mission to aid the people in remote northern parts of the country devastated by an earthquake last year. A magnitude 7.6 earthquake centered roughly 60 miles northeast from here struck Oct. 8, leaving more than 73,000 people dead, 128,000 injured and 3.4 million homeless.
Two days later, a coalition of nations formed Operation Lifeline, providing food, water, shelter and medical care until the operation's conclusion in March.
Operation Promise Keeping picks up where Lifeline left off, officials said, bringing rebuilding supplies to the people as they prepare for the winter near the Himalaya Mountains. According to a release from the U.S. Embassy here, the United States has pledged $206 million in earthquake reconstruction assistance to Pakistan over the next four years.
On Oct. 3, almost a year after the earthquake, Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft began bringing supplies to Islamabad International Airport. Army CH-47 Chinook helicopters are set to deliver the materials, including more than 10,000 sheets of corrugated iron for homes in the Allai and Kaghan valleys.
Several members of the Chinook air and maintenance crews were here for Operation Lifeline, bringing their efforts for Promise Keeping full circle, according to Chinook pilot Army Warrant Officer John Roberts, a reservist deployed from Fort Lewis, Wash.
"We're back, and we're here to help," he said. "We're here to show the Pakistanis that America has not abandoned them and is still their friend."
Last year, the people in the earthquake-affected areas came to refer to the Chinook crews as "angels of mercy" because of the quick and efficient response they provided, he said.
"Pakistan is one of the most important partners in the global war on terrorism, especially in Operation Enduring Freedom," said Roberts. "Taliban and other fighters are all over the mountains on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"When the Pakistanis see that America is an ally and we help them when they're in need, then the Taliban has no place to go," he said. "You sure don't see the Taliban helping people in northern Pakistan."