By David Allen, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Friday, July 11, 2008
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — The Marines of Combat Logistics Regiment 3 departed here for the Cobra Gold military exercise with no idea they would end up helping provide relief to thousands of cyclone victims.
When Cyclone Nargis tore across Myanmar on May 2, the Marines were preparing for the start of the annual Cobra Gold in Thailand.
But it didn’t take the unit’s 240 Okinawa-based Marines — most of whom have returned — long to switch gears from a combat-training posture to relief mode, working around the clock to provide pallets of supplies for the support effort, dubbed "Operation Caring Response."
On May 12, after delays caused by the reluctance of the Myanmar government to accept international assistance, a U.S. Air Force C-130 loaded with relief supplies was allowed to land in Rangoon. It was the first of 200 relief flights delivering more than 3.3 million pounds of much-needed supplies that the U.S. military would send into the country to assist international organizations providing relief.
Much more could have been accomplished, U.S. military officials said. Myanmar denied offers to use long-range helicopters to distribute supplies to the hardest-hit areas of the country and refused the assistance of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and the USS Essex Ready Group, which was diverted to international waters off the coast of Myanmar for more than three weeks.
However, the Okinawa-based members of CLR-3 never let politics get in the way.
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