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III MEF assesses flooding in Thailand

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A humanitarian assistance survey team, consisting of 10 Marines from III Marine Expeditionary Force, departed from here for Bangkok, Thailand, to assess the flooded areas and the magnitude of assistance needed Oct. 15.

Significant rainfall from the monsoon season resulted in flooding, affecting 8.2 millon people in 61 of 77 provinces in Thailand. The Thai government made a request to the U.S. government for assistance, and III MEF quickly assembled a HAST, tasking them with a four-day mission to identify key areas, scope and possible duration of subsequent support from U.S. forces.

“Recent floods have caused a lot of human suffering among the people of Thailand,” said Col. John A. Ostrowski, officer-in-charge of the HAST. “We are going to see what it is that we can potentially provide with our capabilities to help alleviate that suffering. It’s key that we provide just what they need.”

The role of the Marine Corps during any humanitarian assistance and disaster response is to rapidly respond with critically needed capabilities to deliver assistance and relief to the area requiring immediate aid. III MEF regularly trains to respond to natural disasters during exercises held on Okinawa and throughout the Asia-Pacific region. III MEF’s readiness to rapidly respond and provide aid to partner nations in the Asia-Pacific region was demonstrated during Operation Tomodachi, the Japan-U.S. effort to provide essential resources and aid to those affected by the March 11 earthquake and subsequent tsunami in mainland Japan.

Prior to the deployment of a large number of forces in support of a HA/DR mission, a HAST deploys to an affected area to assess and gain information essential for planning.

“This event highlights the responsiveness of III MEF in the Pacific theater,” said Ostrowski. “Less than 12 hours ago, we received word that they may need assistance and now here we are about to board a plane. Like we’ve done for many years in the Pacific, we are deploying with today’s team; today’s forces for today’s events.”

The team is made up of subject matter experts in the fields of aviation, logistics and medicine. These planners took with them approximately 18,000 sandbags to supplement the relief efforts to those in the disaster stricken areas.

Lance Cpl. Luis A. Villa, a data network technician with 7th Communications Battalion, III Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, III MEF, is a part of the HAST and is conducting his first mission in support of a disaster-relief operation. His job is to ensure members of the HAST have communications.

“I really want to see what’s going on and help out,” said Villa. Villa, who has been to Thailand before during an exercise, is excited to return and help the people of Thailand.

Article by Cpl. Justin R. Wheeler, Marine Corps Base Camp Butler