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3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade showcases helicopter relief capabilities

U-TAPAO ROYAL THAI AIRFIELD, Thailand — — Using C-130 aircrafts, the U.S. Marine Corps has continued to send relief supplies to Burma in the wake of Cyclone Nargis, a storm that ravaged the country May 3 killing thousands and destroying crops and infrastructure.
However, many of the supplies can not make it to areas severely affected due to impassable roadways.


6/13/2008 By Lance Cpl. Aaron D. Hostutler, III MEF

Recent CNN reports cite 130,000 people either dead or missing as a result of the cyclone. The United Nations Children’s Fund has estimates that only 50 percent of the affected areas have received help.

U.S. officials have tried for weeks to convince the military leaders of Burma to allow helicopters to deliver supplies, but the isolationist regime has refused any such offer.

To increase pressure on Burmese officials to allow more U.S. aide, the Marine Corps put on an air show of sorts at U-Tapao Royal Thai Airfield May 31 to demonstrate to various international news agencies the capabilities of the U.S. helicopters, attached to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.

The event included a refueling display and a CH-46 supply movement demonstration. The Marines also gave rides to members of the media to allow them to document first hand the versatility of the helicopters.

“These helicopters have a grand capability,” said Brig. Gen. Ronald Bailey, commanding general of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade. “They can be used in several ways.”

Helicopters deliver supplies more efficiently to remote areas than a C-130, especially when there is a small landing zone is available, Bailey said. But even if the helicopter can not land, it can still hover and drop the supplies to the people. The helicopters can also make multiple deliveries in one trip to an area.

“We originally came to Thailand for Cobra Gold, an exercise that helps build relations and interoperability between nations for cases just like this,” Bailey said. “Now we have a chance to put that training to use. We just want to gain the opportunity to provide further assistance.”