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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, January 4, 2005

Coast Guard relief flight leaves Hawai'i

By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

A Coast Guard C-130 cargo plane and about 10 Hawai'i-based personnel left from Kalaeloa yesterday as part of a growing U.S. military contingent providing tsunami relief around the Indian Ocean.

Lt. Cmdr. Brad Sultzer, a U.S. Coast Guard C-130 pilot based in Hawai'i, says he'll fly "anywhere they need emergency supplies."

Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser

About 40 Coast Guard personnel from four air stations on two C-130s — including one based in Sacramento, Calif. — are heading to Utapao air field in southern Thailand, a hub for relief efforts.

Lt. Cmdr. Brad Sultzer, a C-130 pilot out of Hawai'i, said the aircraft will be making six to eight runs a day to ferry food, water and medical supplies.

"I understand there's a million people that are in need of food and water right now," Sultzer said as he prepared to leave.

Sultzer, 46, who's been in the Coast Guard for 27 years, said he'll fly "anywhere they need emergency supplies."

"We're not sure of the locations that we can get into, and the airfields that are open," he said. "Helicopters can make certain locations. C-130s need a little bit more room airfield-wise."

Meanwhile, the 599th Transportation Group out of Wheeler Army Airfield was designated by U.S. Pacific Command as port manager for tsunami relief in Thailand, officials said.

The 599th team, including individuals leaving from Wheeler tomorrow, subordinate battalions, and personnel already deployed, will oversee operations at the port of Laem Chabang as six U.S. ships from the Maritime Prepositioning Ship Squadron Three begin delivery of disaster relief supplies.

Three additional forensic analysis teams from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command at Hickam Air Force Base are leaving today, and initially will be deployed to Thailand.

Fourteen military mortuary affairs and forensic specialists recently left Hickam Air Force Base on a Hawai'i Air National Guard KC-135 tanker to assist in the recovery and identification of tsunami victims.

The United States has committed $350 million for relief efforts. More than 20 patrol and cargo aircraft have been made available to assess the situation and deliver relief supplies. Also sent were an aircraft carrier, the maritime prepositioning squadron from Guam, and an amphibious assault ship and Marines.

Approximately 100 Marines and sailors and six CH-53D Sea Stallion helicopters from Kane'ohe Bay were tapped for South Asia assistance, and are to be airlifted to the region.

On the Coast Guard mission, Sultzer said that two crews will be working on each of the C-130s for the 30- to 45-day mission so more supply runs can be made. On the shorter hops in the region, he expected the aircraft to haul about 50,000 pounds of supplies per trip.

"We're usually the ones that can get a lot of missions out — not a lot of red tape," Sultzer said. "I usually say, 'See that red tail? Just fill it up and let me know where to go,' and we're ready to go."

Reach William Cole at wcole@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-5459.