Last week, we covered the move by the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., to assist flood-ravaged Pakistan.
The update: The situation is serious enough that Marines are now planning to assist for up to four months.
Brig. Gen. David Berger, director of operations at Marine Corps headquarters, sat down with two other reporters and me yesterday to explain the situation. The amphibious assault ship Peleliu has been off the coast of Pakistan since Aug. 9, and more than 200 Marines are now based out of Ghazi air base, west of Islamabad, where helicopter relief missions are being launched regularly.
The U.S. originally expected Marines would be needed for 30 to 60 days, but it now looks like 90 to 120 is more realistic, Berger said. The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., also sped up its planned deployment to leave North Carolina by the end of the month and sail for Pakistan.
“Right now, we’re planning long-term, because that’s the most difficult one” to support, Berger said of the Corps’ plans. “If we’re not needed that long, OK, but we’re planning 90 to 120 right now.”
As of yesterday, the U.S. had 15 military helicopters, including 12 Marine helos, in Pakistan flying missions out of Ghazi. The aircraft included eight medium-lift CH-46E Sea Knights and four heavy-lift CH-53E Super Stallions, plus three Navy heavy-lift MH-53 helos sent from Bahrain. The Marine helicopters are with the MEU’s aviation element, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 165 (Reinforced), out of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif.
For more information, check out next week’s Marine Corps Times.