In Pakistan, thousands of people have been left homeless thanks to the devastating floods that washed away parts of the country, the one bright spot is the Camp Pendleton-based Marines, from the 15th Marine Expedition Unit, that were brought in to help people in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. Their job is to transport food and water into areas that cannot be reached by foot or car and transport people out of the areas ravaged by flood waters.
In the midst of severe devastation, these Pendleton marines are there to help. The 15th MEU arrived in the region with USS Peleliu on August 12. Since then, the crew has delivered more than 400,000 pre-packaged meals and flown more than 5-thousand people to safety.
"You hear about all the many different things we can do and possible places we can go, some that are not as glamorous as this one, but to be out there and save someone, it's a great feeling," said GySgt Wade Davis from a base in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. "We've been training for this for a long time.”
“It has been nice to utilize our aircraft to its maximum potential, nice to see all of our hard work and training put to work,” Davis said.
Davis and his fellow pilots fly across the countryside and have seen the devastation for themselves.
"You can see the path where the water had traveled and you can see how much it was and how violent it was," Davis said. "It just ripped through the mountainsides, taking out roads, taking out houses, even taking out the mountain itself."
The 15th MEU has nearly 200 marines based at the Ghazi Aviation base in northwestern Pakistan working around the clock to keep 15 heavy-lift helicopters in the air.
GySgt Darren Lapsley, head of the unit’s aircraft maintenance division, says it takes eight man-hours for every hour of flight. Lapsley says they are doing about eight to ten flights per day.
It takes a lot of coordination in the air and on the ground to keep the operation going successfully.
"Once we are in the zone where food is needed, [we] get it off really quick and then set-up for passengers," Davis said.
Lapsley says the mission just isn't about getting the job done, but about doing what is right.
"I just put myself in their shoes, put myself in their situation, if I didn't have anything, [and] all my household goods were washed out, my clothes were missing, seeing all my possessions were gone, I would want somebody to put the same effort in helping me out, so I try to do that for them," Lapsley said.
The unit says in the few days they have been there they have already seen an improvement in the area. Davis says the Pakistani people and their motivation to get back on their feet encourage him to continue his mission. The Pakistani government has already started building new roads to the Northern province.
"It is amazing to see that, from the first day we got here, until now I've seen an improvement in the roads," Davis said. "Their spirit is high, they are glad to see us. They always offer a handshake and a smile it is great."
"We're learning from them and they are learning from us, I just hope it continues," Davis said.