U.S. Navy Dentists Treat Residents of Indonesian City

By Samantha L. Quigley

Lt. (Dr.) Jillian Martin checks Reza, 12, for swollen lymph nodes. Swollen lymph nodes would indicate that infection from an abscessed tooth had gone beyond the tooth. Reza’s father brought him to the hospital in Meulaboh, Indonesia, to see one of the two dentists that make up a five-person dental team. He did have an abscessed tooth, but left with only medicine. Martin, a doctor with the MEU Service Support Group 15 dental team, acts as the team’s medical liaison. MSSG is a part of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Photo by Samantha L. Quigley / DoD Photo

MEULABOH, Indonesia — There’s a new doctor in town and he goes by "Dr. GiGi" or, literally, Dr. Teeth.

Actually, that new doctor is a U.S. Navy team composed of two dentists, a doctor, a dental technician and a dentalman. They blew into the hospital here and opened for business later. Lt. Chris Hamlin, one of the dentists, put the number of patients that first day at around 20.

Patients weren’t the only ones who wanted to see Dr. GiGi, though. That first day, the windows filled with curious on-lookers as the dentists went to work, performing mostly exams and extractions of damaged teeth, said Lt. Dan Grossman, the USS Bonhomme Richard’s dentist.

"It’s been great," Grossman said. "We don’t speak the same language, but the smile on their faces when you take that tooth out that’s been hurting (is gratifying)." Interacting with the local population in this tsunami-stricken city has given him a new outlook on life, he said.

The team’s tenure at the hospital is short. Arriving on Jan. 13, they began getting the dental suite ready for use. "We’ve been cleaning (the suite) every day," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Romell Richardson, the dental technician. But cleaning was only one part of the preparation. Everything had to be sterilized as well — not an easy task in a place where drinking bottled water is recommended.

"You’ve just got to overcome," Richardson said. And they have.

Grossman had hoped for a better turnout on the team’s second day at the hospital. Though it was a longer day, it was much slower, with only about five patients. It was determined that the low turnout was because Friday is a Muslim day of prayer, and a large portion of the population is Muslim. The numbers jumped to around 15 today, Grossman said.

Lt. Jillian Martin, a doctor with the MEU Service Support Group 15, part of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit from the BHR, plays a slightly different role in the team. "I’ve been acting as a sort of medical liaison," said Martin, who is a general practitioner.

When she and a small medical team talked to Indonesian government officials, they were told that medical personnel was plentiful. So she assists the dentists from a medical standpoint.

When 12-year-old Reza’s father brought him in complaining of an aching tooth, Martin used a few simple phrases and some charades to determine what the problem was. Reza’s father thought Reza had an abscessed tooth, but it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. "I don’t feel many lymph nodes," Martin said after checking the boy. If there was an infection and it had spread further, this wouldn’t be the case.

Reza’s father was right, though. His son did have an abscessed tooth that needed to be removed. However, he negotiated for "medicine only." When he heard he’d been spared the pliers, Reza smiled in relief and gladly took the antibiotic and pain killer.

"They’ll come in while they’re in pain (and) get meds," Hamlin said. "And when the pain goes away, they’ll come back and have the tooth pulled."

It’s a common misconception among the local people that if a tooth is pulled while they’re in pain, they’ll get an infection, Hamlin said. Mostly, he said, they’re in pain because the tooth is dead.

"It’s tough, because the oral hygiene is so poor," Hamlin said. Care of "gigi" in Indonesia, he added, tends to be less about prevention than about fixing problems after they occur.

The mission of providing dental care to the residents of Meulaboh is not done in ideal conditions, but the team members were pleased with what they found. The biggest problems were the lack of suction, which meant that someone, most likely Richardson or dentalman Seaman Donell Ellis, has to stand by with gauze to blot away anything that may need blotting.

Sterilization of instruments is probably one of the biggest obstacles. Without modern methods to clean the implements, the team is making do by scrubbing them with scouring pads and soaking them in sterilization solutions, Hamlin said.

Unfortunately, sterilization is not the only roadblock to doing the job; the language barrier is another obstacle. Members of the Singapore army located at the hospital were able to do some interpreting for the team. "This is the biggest barrier – communication," Hamlin said.

Even though they’ve only been here a couple of days, the team has made an impact with the locals. Emi and Hendry, two children who took to hanging around the dental clinic when the team was there, brought in fresh green coconuts.

Perhaps the best example of the impact the team made on the locals was summed up in the story of one 8-year-old boy who had to have a painful tooth pulled. He walked out with his father, head down and arms folded across his chest. His answer to the question, "Better?" was a single solemn nod of his head. "He was a real trooper," Hamlin said.

After being picked up and deposited on a roof by a tsunami wave, a trip to the dentist is child’s play.

Articles Related to the Tsunami Relief Efforts:

** ‘Conditions for Transition’ Met in Thailand, Sri Lanka
** Indonesians Welcoming U.S. Forces ‘With Open Arms’
** IsraAID Sets Up Relief Camp in Sri Lanka
** USS Lincoln Sailors Greet Deputy Defense Secretary
** Wolfowitz Views Indonesia’s Devastated Aceh Province
** Russia’s Chief Sanitary Inspector Calls Against Southeast Asian Trips
** Water, Supplies Delivered to Indonesian Refugee Camp, Hospital

** Russia Brought About 150 Tons of Humanitarian Aid to Southeast Asia
** Delivery of Supplies Welcome in Indonesian City
** Russia’s Emergencies Ministry Planes to Bring Mobile Hospitals to Sri Lanka
** Tsunami Aid Effort Continues as Relief Agencies Get Funds
** Full Initial Tsunami Coverage

‘Conditions for Transition’ Met in Thailand, Sri Lanka

By Kathleen T. Rhem

Sri Lankan workers unload bags of vegetables from a U.S. Air Force HH-60 Pavehawk helicopter at Dambula, Sri Lanka, during relief operations for tsunami victims. The airmen are transporting food, medicines and supplies to the affected people in support of Operation Unified Assistance. The Pavehawk is assigned to the 33rd Rescue Squadron, at Kadena Air Base, Japan.

Photo by Master Sgt. Val Gempis, U.S. Air Force. / DoD Photo

UTAPAO, Thailand, Jan. 15, 2005 – The "conditions for transition" have been met in both Thailand and Sri Lanka, the U.S. general in charge of coordinating relief efforts throughout South Asia said here.

In Indonesia, U.S. and other international military and aid organizations are still working to deliver critical supplies to people in affected areas, explained Marine Lt. Gen. Robert Blackman, commander of Combined Support Force 536.

Blackman delivered this assessment to Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Navy Adm. Thomas Fargo, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, while the two were in Utapao as part of a three-day trip through the tsunami-stricken region.

Blackman explained that the relief mission is "beyond the stop-the-bleeding phase" and is progressing to the point when U.S. military assistance no longer will be needed.

The conditions for transition from U.S. military to host-nation military control of operations in these countries have been met, he said. Blackman estimated that "within the next week or two" the U.S. military presence in these countries will evolve into a more-normal theater-security support posture.

The general credited the long-standing Cobra Gold series of combined U.S.-Thai exercises with allowing U.S. forces to "come in here to Utapao at a tremendous comfort level."

The Thai military’s engineering efforts in beginning the reconstruction phase have been "very effective," Blackman said. He added that the Thai military’s engineers will continue to receive support from a U.S. forward engineering- support team under the auspices of the Joint U.S. Military Assistance Group, which has been operating in Thailand to foster cooperation for several years.

"Encouraging" is how Blackman described recovery and budding reconstruction efforts in Sri Lanka. He said the Sri Lankan government is "meeting or exceeding the minimum needs of internally displaced persons."

Sri Lanka is now requesting U.S. logistical support that goes beyond providing the basics — food, water, shelter, and medical care — in some areas of the country.

Indonesia is "clearly the most challenging" of the three countries Blackman focused on and that Wolfowitz is visiting this weekend. Blackman said the devastation there is "mind-boggling" after 60-foot waves hit some parts of the country.

"You can’t minimize 130,000 deaths on the island of Sumatra," Blackman said.

In trying to describe the devastation on Sumatra, Blackman suggested Wolfowitz "picture a blender" and what it would look like if someone were to put a city in one.

In Banda Aceh, a provincial capital on the northern edge of Sumatra, the first third of the city was "literally swept away," he said. Then another third has serious damage with high-water marks sometimes reaching up to the second and third stories on buildings. "It’s sobering," he said.

Blackman said the situation in Banda Aceh gets better every day, but "we’re still seeing too much swarming of helicopters."

He showed Wolfowitz a photo of a group of men swarming a helicopter trying to deliver aid supplies. Blackman said this is of particular concern because able- bodied men can get the supplies, but widows and orphans often are left out.

Even though the unique capabilities the U.S. military brings to the table won’t be needed for much longer, these efforts are setting the stage for longer-term reconstruction. The international relief agencies "are really stepping up," Blackman said.

But, he added, such efforts can get convoluted and be less effective in the "fog of relief." He said this phenomenon was similar to the fog of war, and this is why it’s vital to have strong communication among all parties.

A broad-ranging assessment throughout with region will allow Indonesia in particular to know what its obligations will be when U.S. troops leave. Indonesia has asked that all foreign militaries be out of the country by March 29, three months after the disaster struck.

Such an assessment will leave the Indonesian government in better stead as they prepare to meet the needs of their own people, Blackman said.

The general said he’s not surprised by Indonesia’s stance regarding foreign military troops. "I see it as positive," he said. "They are saying, ‘We are going to do this work by ourselves.’"

Wolfowitz said it’s not important that Indonesia has set an arbitrary date for the withdrawal of foreign forces. "I don’t think that’s really the point," he said. "The point is we’re working together to stop suffering and to get host- nation countries in the lead."

Indonesians Welcoming U.S. Forces ‘With Open Arms’

By Kathleen T. Rhem

Marine Lance Cpl. Jeff W. Erickson guides a Humvee off of the High Speed Vessel WestPac Express shortly after landing at Chuk Samet Port, Utapao, Thailand, Erickson is among more than 14,000 U.S. Marines, Sailors, Airmen, Soldiers and Coast Guardsmen supporting Operation Unified Assistance, a multinational relief effort to bring food water and medical care to victims of the Dec. 26, 2004, Indian Ocean tsunami disaster. Erickson is radar repairman with Marine Air Control Group-18, III Marine Aircraft Wing.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Patrick J. Floto, U.S. Marine Corps. / DoD Photo

Defense officials on Jan. 13 disputed contentions that Indonesia does not welcome U.S. assistance in dealing with the aftermath of the Dec. 26 tsunami that devastated the country’s Aceh province.

"The Indonesians have welcomed us with open arms," Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said aboard his plane en route to the region on a fact-finding trip through areas affected by the disaster.

Wolfowitz was U.S. ambassador to Indonesia from 1986 to 1989 and has maintained ties to the region.

He explained that lingering diplomatic tensions stemming from Australian, U.N. and U.S. intervention in East Timor in 1999 have been put aside while the countries work together to provide humanitarian aid to Aceh, on the northern portion of the island of Sumatra.

"All of the kinds of concerns about sovereignty and mistrust of foreign militaries and questions about the problems with our military-to-military relations have been put aside in the wake of this disaster to a degree that … frankly, old Indonesian hands are surprised," he said, referring to himself and others who have worked closely with the Indonesian government in the past.

Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kala said Jan. 12 that he hopes foreign troops will be out of Indonesia within three months. A senior defense policy official traveling with Wolfowitz said the comments stem from the Indonesians’ belief that they will be able to handle the situation themselves within that timeframe, not from a desire to see all American troops out.

Wolfowitz supported that belief. "It’s our expectation, our hope that we wouldn’t be needed militarily past that point," he said.

He noted any country, including the United States, would be sensitive about having foreign troops on their sovereign soil. "And I can tell you that it is extremely sensitive in Indonesia," he said.

Indonesia’s aversion to foreign militaries within its borders stems from the country’s long occupation by Dutch troops from the late 1800s until it gained its independence in 1950.

On Jan. 12, a senior U.S. defense official who is an expert on Asia-Pacific affairs disputed press reports that Indonesia was requiring U.S. Marines to go ashore without their weapons.

The official said Marines working ashore are carrying weapons. "The Indonesians have not precluded our carrying weapons," he said at the Pentagon. "That’s a bad report."

This official said he sees U.S. military involvement going on for a matter of weeks, not months. "I’ll say weeks at this point," he said. "But beyond that we’re constantly in an assessment-reassessment loop."

IsraAID Sets Up Relief Camp in Sri Lanka

(IFM) A group of Israelis from IsraAID, a coordinating body of Jewish organizations worldwide and non-governmental organizations based in Israel, arrived in Sri Lanka late past Monday night to set up a relief camp, as part of the Israel Campaign For Southeast Asia Disaster, according to the Jerusalem Post. Members of IsraAID’s 15-person team are identifiable by their t-shirts sporting the words "Israel Relief Force." The shirts have attracted a good deal of positive attention from local Sri Lankans, who have rushed to volunteer their services, according to Gal Lousky, an IsraAID coordinator.

The group’s plan involves three main components: a field kitchen manned by local cooks, a field infirmary, and an area for orphaned and lost children to receive the care and attention they need. Lousky said the group’s concept was unique in that no other organization in Sri Lanka was involved in covering every single aspect of the relief effort. IsraAID is collecting donations, sending people, and cooking food all by itself. She said that the efforts would focus mainly on the children’s welfare, and getting 5,000 people fed per day.

The funding for the campaign is being provided by Israelis, and European and American Jewish communities.

USS Lincoln Sailors Greet Deputy Defense Secretary

By Kathleen T. Rhem

Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz speaks with press members traveling with him while flying to McCord Air Force Base, Wash. Wolfowitz is traveling to McCord to pass on his appreciation for the support provided by the 62nd Airlift Wing for Operation Unified Assistance.

Photo by Master Sgt. James M. Bowman, U.S. Air Force. / DoD Photo

JAKARTA, Indonesia — U.S. sailors warmly welcomed Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and a delegation of other senior officials Saturday during a visit to the USS Abraham Lincoln, 8 to 10 miles off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia.

Aboard the Lincoln, Wolfowitz; U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia B. Lynn Pascoe; and Navy Adm. Thomas Fargo, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, told a group of sailors from Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron 47, embarked aboard the Lincoln, that their work is saving lives.

Fargo thanked the sailors on behalf of himself and Wolfowitz, and added, "There are a lot of Americans out there who want to thank you as well."

Wolfowitz said it’s important to transfer control of relief efforts in Indonesia over to local officials as soon as practical for the sake of the people involved. "Victims and survivors have a need to be involved and doing things," he said. "The sooner you can get them taking care of themselves instead of (relying on others), I think, will psychologically benefit them."

Wolfowitz told the sailors their work goes far beyond being "angels of mercy" because Indonesia is a very important country in terms of U.S. security.

"There are more Muslims in Indonesia that in any other country in the world," he said, "but it’s a country where Islam is not the state religion." Christianity and Buddhism also are widely practiced in Indonesia.

The Lincoln’s timely arrival in the disaster zone on Dec. 31 "saved enormous numbers of lives," Pascoe said. The ship and its carrier strike group were afloat in the South China Sea when they received orders to move to Indonesia.

Pascoe said Indonesians he deals with are very appreciative of U.S. help. "One thing the Indonesians are never going to forget is who was there first," he said.

Aboard the ship, Wolfowitz, Fargo and Pascoe also received briefings on medial relief efforts and the ship’s operations. An expert with the World Health Organization, Rob Holden, said aid and military agencies both on and offshore are doing "a remarkable job in a short period of time."

The ship’s skipper, Capt. Kendall Card, told reporters traveling with the party that eight-person health-assessment teams go ashore to several locations every day via helicopter. The teams — composed of one U.S. Marine, one Indonesian soldier and six medical experts in a variety of specialties — move among 18 landing zones in Indonesia. This mission has become more challenging in recent days, because people are beginning to repopulate small villages that are harder for the teams to reach, Card said.

U.S. helicopters from the Lincoln and from the USS Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group, afloat in the Indian Ocean, have proved invaluable in delivering relief supplies to remote areas. To date, Card said, helicopters from the two ships have delivered 2.2 million pounds of relief supplies. On Jan. 14 alone, helicopters flew 86 missions, delivered 333,000 pounds, and carried 156 passengers.

Indonesian government representatives direct where the missions go. "They are definitely in charge and in control," Card said.

The captain said his sailors and Marines find the relief missions "very rewarding work."

"We don’t have any shortage of volunteers," he said.

Navy Petty Officer 1st Class David Loiselle, an aviation warfare systems operator aboard the Lincoln, said this relief work is one of the most rewarding things he’s ever done.

The 29-year-old sailor said the amount of devastation was 100 times worse than he had expected. "It looked like somebody had just take a giant Weedwacker to the entire coast," he said. "I never saw anything like it — never thought I’d see anything like it."

Loiselle said he has been ashore on missions almost every day since Jan. 1. He said getting married has been the best thing that happened to him since joining the Navy in 1993. "But other than that," he added, "my single biggest personal gratitude is rescuing people. I’d much rather do that than shooting people."

Wolfowitz Views Indonesia’s Devastated Aceh Province

By Kathleen T. Rhem

Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz carries a bag of rice during a humanitarian relief mission. Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz visited Indonesia to show his support for Operation Unified Assistance.

Photo by U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. James M. Bowman / DoD Photo

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz returned to Indonesia and found a country much changed since his tenure as U.S. ambassador here nearly 20 years ago.

When Wolfowitz was ambassador, from 1986 to 1989, Indonesia was not a democracy and, of course, a tsunami hadn’t destroyed vast swaths of the country’s seafront communities.

The deputy secretary arrived in Banda Aceh, Indonesia — provincial capital of the Aceh province, which was hit harder than any other area in the Dec. 26 tsunami — aboard a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III cargo plane loaded with pallet upon pallet of humanitarian rations.

Because of his previous posting here, Wolfowitz is very popular in Indonesia. Dozens of local media representatives were waiting when he stepped off the plane at Sultan Iskandar Muda Air Force Base. A crowd swarmed around him, seeking photographs and handshakes.

After arriving in Banda Aceh, Wolfowitz immediately was whisked off on a helicopter tour of some of the damaged areas.

From the SH-60B Sea Hawk helicopter, the devastation was clearly visible for miles. Near the coast, parcels of land the size of several city blocks have been swept clean of all that stood there — entire villages literally washed from the island of Sumatra.

A short distance away, the pattern of destruction changes. The roofs of a few scattered structures jut out above piles of rubble. Boats lay on their sides far from the coast.

At a news conference later in the day, Wolfowitz said he’s glad to be back in Aceh and glad the U.S. military has been able to help. "The scale of this is so enormous," he said, "I can’t imagine any country that could handle this on its own."

He added that this disaster "gives a new horrible meaning to what it means to be a survivor."

The Pentagon’s No. 2 man assured the Indonesian people that the United States has no desire to have a long-term presence in Indonesia. "The goal is for Indonesia to be self-sufficient, or at least as self-sufficient as possible," he said. "And the goal from our point of view is to be able to free up our people for other missions.

"But let me emphasize the most important goal is to make sure the survivors here are properly taken care of," he added. "I think that’s what everybody agrees has to be done."

Russia’s Chief Sanitary Inspector Calls
Against Southeast Asian Trips

MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) – Contagious diseases are sweeping tsunami-stricken South and Southeast Asian areas. Gennady Onishchenko, Russia’s chief state sanitary inspector, insistently calls his compatriots not to visit the problem region, he said to the Echo of Moscow radio in Wednesday afternoon’s live cast.

The inspector is sure official statistics are playing down the epidemic danger. "The World Health Organization has no alarming information on its website. That fact is alarming in itself. Today, they reported a mere several hundred patients. This is not serious. Epidemics are on an upswing, and that is evident. Rather a long time has passed [since the calamity], and there is every prerequisite for intestinal diseases, let alone others."

Current preventive measures are far from enough, considering the damage and other tragic consequences of the quake and the tsunami. That is the worst problem for now, pointed out Mr. Onishchenko.

Russian doctors are working in the disaster areas. A team of thirty will join them quite soon. These are experts from a major epidemiological research institute in Stavropol. They are departing January 16 to inspect local food and drinking water, he added.

Water, Supplies Delivered to Indonesian
Refugee Camp, Hospital

By Samantha L. Quigley

Navy Seaman Donnel Ellis, with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Service Support Group 15 helps a resident of Meulaboh, Indonesia, load a 50-pound bag of rice onto his shoulder Jan. 14. The rice was brought to the beach from ships off the coast, including the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard.

Photo by Samantha L. Quigley / DoD Photo

MEULABOH, Indonesia, Jan. 14, 2005 – Carried aboard an air-cushioned landing craft, a large amount of humanitarian assistance – food, water and medical and engineering supplies – was delivered.

The delivery included "rice, lots of lumber, hand sanitizer (and) soap," said Marine 2nd Lt. Joseph Millsap of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit. The MEU is part of the USS Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group in the waters off the west coast of Indonesia. The strike group is here in support of the Combined Support Force’s disaster relief operations.

The LCAC, as the landing craft is known, is an 80-foot, flat-bottomed aluminum hovercraft that "flies" across the water. It can hold 60 tons and can carry an M-1A1 Abrams tank. The assault craft unit that operates from the Bonhomme Richard, ACU 5, operates three LCACs, which usually are armed with two M-60 mounts for perimeter defense. "Most of the LCAC’s tactical equipment has been removed for this mission," said Marine Gunnery Sgt. Robert Knoll of the 15th MEU. According to Millsap, this allows for delivery of 45 to 50 pallets of supplies from the Bonhomme Richard today.

The LCAC crew is responsible only for getting the goods to shore, though. Its members of the MEU Service Support Group who get them where they need to go after the "beach masters" do their thing.

Beach masters direct the LCACs onto the beach and are in charge of unloading the goods and equipment. Though the days are "long and hot," said Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Patrick Gradert, "it’s nice to help to get material in here and put smiles on people’s faces."

That is easier to do now than it was in the beginning, MSSG 15’s commanding officer, Marine Lt. Col. Jay Hatton, said. A suspicion of the U.S. military slowed the process in the beginning. Part of the core MSSG 15 team that stays ashore in Meulaboh to coordinate efforts with the government, Hatton said building trust is key.

For Hatton, building that trust requires things like sitting through a two-hour meeting with an Indonesian colonel and his ministers. Hatton doesn’t speak the language, but he patiently waited through the meeting so he could speak with the colonel for 10 minutes. He said the rapport he has built with the colonel has kept things running smoothly.

"I think it’s that personal relationship that has helped overcome those initial suspicions," Hatton said.

That trust has helped get a lot of assistance to a lot of the residents of Meulaboh.

Today, three 500-gallon containers of water were delivered in the city of Meulaboh. Tant Kantor Bupati Posko I refugee camp received one tank to make up for a shortfall in a Jan. 13 delivery. The camp was to have received six of the tanks, but the MSSG had only five to give them. The Meulaboh hospital received the other two tanks delivered today.

As for the other supplies, the effort in distributing those was minimal. The people came to them. Around 2 p.m., residents of Meulaboh came, some from a great distance, to cart away 50-pound sacks of rice and liter bottles of water. They made quick work of the pallets of rice delivered to the beach.

And the task of getting these goods home may not have been so easy, but the smiles of gratitude were there.

Russia Brought About 150 Tons of Humanitarian
Aid to Southeast Asia

MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) – Russia has delivered close to 150 metric tons of humanitarian aid to the Southeast Asian countries hit by the earthquake and giant waves, Yury Brazhnikov, the director of the Emergencies Ministry’s international activities department, told reporters on Monday.

"From December 27 to January 10 Emergencies Ministry aircraft brought an overall of over 64 tons of aid to Sri Lanka, Thailand and Indonesia, while Defence Ministry planes delivered more than 83 metric tons of aid," said Mr. Brazhnikov.

Mr. Brazhnikov said Russia would continue supplying humanitarian aid to those countries in the next few days. The Emergencies Ministry and Defence Ministry, for example, will send eight planes to Southeast Asia this week. They will bring food to Sri Lanka, thereby meeting the country’s request.

Russia also intends to provide medical aid to victims of the tsunamis. The Defence Ministry is deploying a mobile hospital on Sumatra, Indonesia.

"An Emergencies Ministry hospital has been prepared for transportation to Sri Lanka. Besides, the Russian Health Ministry’s sanitary and anti-epidemic brigades are prepared to fly for Thailand," said Mr. Brazhnikov.

Mr. Brazhnikov said over the first week following the tragedy Russia had provided humanitarian aid worth about $2 million. Today, the overall amount of aid is much higher.

International experts said the Southeast Asian countries needed aid worth an overall of $4 billion. International organisations and banks will allocate half of that amount, the other half will be provided by the United States, Germany, Japan and other countries. "Russia is the leader in terms of targeted assistance to the victims," said Mr. Brazhnikov.

Delivery of Supplies Welcome in Indonesian City

By Samantha L. Quigley

Marine Sgt. Patrick Wright of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Service Support Group 15 hands a sweet treat from a packaged meal to an Indonesian girl at the hospital in Meubaloh, Indonesia. The MEU’s service support group was on a mission in the city to deliver water to a refugee camp and the hospital. The food was a bonus and a hit with the crowd of local people.

Photo by Samantha L. Quigley / DoD Photo

MEULABOH, Indonesia — Amid devastation unknown in recent history, survivors of the Dec. 26 earthquake and tsunamis have reason to smile.

The U.S. military is, in part, responsible for those smiles.

The beach area here is barely recognizable as the community it once was. Where houses once stood, survivors of the disaster poke through the rubble in search of anything salvageable.

"It’s remarkable," said Marine Lt. Col. Jay Hatton, commander of Marine Expeditionary Unit Service Support Group 15. "I’ve never seen anything like this, and I’ve been to some pretty bad places."

Red and white flags mark spots where bodies are thought to still be buried or where bodies have been recovered. Most likely, it’s the former, as the smell of decomposition is prevalent near those sites.

But even among such utter destruction are hints of humor. For example, at one turn it appears someone intended to leave his boat parked neatly at the curb.

The glimmers of hope already sparked were brightened today by members of the MSSG 15. Part of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit from the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard trucked in three 500-gallon containers of water. One of those containers went to Tant Kantor Bupati Posko I refugee camp in Meulaboh.

The delivery caused a bit of confusion for Lt. Den Bekang Purwandi of the Indonesian army. He thought the delivery had been made on Jan. 13.

Lt. Col. Hatton explained through an interpreter that the delivery was a supplement to the previous delivery. The camp had received only five of the scheduled six water containers. Once explained, Lt. Purwandi was satisfied and watched as the container was put in place next to the others.

The backdrop of displaced tsunami victims also watched with mild curiosity. Water deliveries aren’t as exciting as the times the troops hand out meals and snacks. On those days, large crowds gather around the vehicles, vying to get the prized bag of M&Ms or a Tootsie Roll, as they did today at the Meulaboh Hospital.

While the water containers were put in place, little hands reached up from the front row of spectators while bigger hands reached through the side rails of the truck.

Marine Sgt. Patrick Wright split up the contents of several meal packages, but not everyone got something. Marine Lance Cpl. Paul Bennett braved the crowd on the ground to make sure as many as possible got their share. The disappointment was audible as a low collective grumble rolled through the crowd upon learning that the rations were gone.

As the trucks rolled away, those who were able to grab a treat settled in to enjoy it. The rest of the crowd headed back to what they were doing before the servicemembers rolled in.

Navy Lt. Dan Grossman, the USS Bonhomme Richard’s dentist, was on hand as part of a five-person team available to handle the dental issues of those in need. The team was getting ready to start its second day of mostly tooth extractions as the crowd was breaking up.

He said the first day had been busy, but successful. "I’m definitely going to leave here with a new appreciation for life," Grossman said.

Russia’s Emergencies Ministry Planes to
Bring Mobile Hospitals to Sri Lanka

MOSCOW, January 15 (RIA Novosti) – Russia’s Ministry for Emergency and Calamity Relief dispatched two IL-76 aircraft from the Ramenskoye airfield near Moscow in the small hours today. They are to take a mobile hospital to tsunami-stricken Sri Lanka. The second craft took off at 2.12, Moscow time, reports a ministry officer on duty.

The planes are heading for Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital, medical and laboratory equipment, a stock of medicines and everything else necessary for the air-mobile hospital. Traveling with the freight are two expert teams-a medical crew of the All-Russia Zashchita (Protection) Emergency Medical Center, and a crew of the Ministry of Health and Social Development, Viktor Beltsov, chief of the Emergencies Ministry press service, said on a previous occasion.

As he informed RIA Novosti, the Russian experts will engage in all-round efforts to localize and fight epidemics in the calamity area. The team consists of experts from a renowned epidemiological research institute based in Stavropol.

Aircraft of Russia’s Ministry for Emergency and Calamity Relief and Defense Ministry have made twenty flights for today to deliver to Southeast Asia humanitarian batches exceeding 500 tons, roughly worth $8 million, said the ministerial press service.

Tsunami Aid Effort Continues
as Relief Agencies Get Funds

By Gerry J. Gilmore

Jan. 14, 2005 – About $92 million of the $350 million pledged by the United States to aid victims of the Dec. 26 earthquake-tsunami has been provided to international relief organizations, a U.S. Agency for International Development official reported today from Thailand.

More funds will be allocated, as required, to U. N. and nongovernmental entities participating in disaster relief efforts in Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and other stricken South and Southeast Asian nations, Tom Fry, head of the USAID disaster relief assessment team, said during a news conference at Utapao, Thailand. USAID is the U.S. government agency responsible for economic and humanitarian assistance around the world.

The tsunami relief effort has now moved "probably beyond" the first phase of such operations, said Fry, who works at Combined Support Force 536’s Utapao headquarters.

The earthquake-caused tsunami killed more than 150,000 people, with Indonesia being the hardest-hit area with estimates of more than 100,000 dead.

Besides continued delivery of food, water and medical supplies across the region, Fry noted that recovery assessments addressing longer-term medical needs and infrastructure repair also are under way.

For example, Fry noted, USAID and CSF 536 personnel recently toured the northwestern coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, to assess "potential health issues" that may emerge in the wake of the tsunami.

"Malaria is a concern," Fry acknowledged, as well as a possible outbreak of measles that could target local children under age 5. He said some international aid organizations working in the area "could be prepared to take some actions" to deter a possible malaria or measles outbreak.

Tsunami relief efforts "continue to improve," reported Navy Rear Adm. Victor G. Guillory, CSF 536 deputy commander of naval forces, who accompanied Fry at the press briefing. Guillory noted that the support force has distributed almost 3 million pounds of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief supplies.

More than 15,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, the admiral noted, are providing tsunami relief support, and 24 U.S. Navy ships and one Coast Guard vessel are deployed in the region. This group, he said, includes the recently arrived amphibious vessel USS Fort McHenry, which was deployed from its port in Japan.

"We are proud," the admiral said, "to be part of this global effort to help the afflicted nations reach the road to recovery."

Guillory confirmed reports that the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln had temporarily steamed farther away from the Indonesian coast to conduct fixed- wing aircraft training that requires more room.

This training had "little or no impact" on the Lincoln’s disaster relief mission, the admiral pointed out, noting that the carrier’s helicopters have no trouble making trips to the coast and back.