WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Department of Defense and European Command stand ready to assist as required, to save lives and alleviate human suffering during this humanitarian crisis in Georgia, said a senior DoD official.
"Working side-by-side with the Republic of Georgia and international organizations, U.S. European Command is providing immediate life-saving support and restoring essential life-support systems as part of a coordinated interagency effort," Michael Ritchie, director of interagency engagement for the U.S. European Command, said in a teleconference with bloggers and online journalists to discuss Operation Assured Delivery, the U.S. government's relief effort for the Republic of Georgia, Aug. 27.
Operation Assured Delivery is the Department of Defense effort executed by the European Command in support and coordination through the Department of State and USAID. United States European Command Interagency Engagement Group is the focal point for this interagency coordination.
Ritchie added that there are more than 100,000 people in the Tblisi area that were displaced due to the conflict. Assisting with the humanitarian efforts are an estimated 160 U.S.-based non-governmental organizations that USAID is in contact with in Georgia.
"Much of the World Food Program -- the USAID-funded feeding programs are taking care of those people who are on the move and headed back to their homes," said Ritchie. "They are the ones that are doing the delivering, primarily in the Tbilisi area where many persons were displaced, but it's also going into other areas as well within the Republic of Georgia."
Along with the humanitarian assistance, EUCOM assessment teams are on the ground in the Republic of Georgia examining the conditions of the infrastructure to see what was damaged.
"We have to get it right so we can help people quickly. We want to optimize the humanitarian aid effort and bring in the right stuff, to the right place at the right time," said Gen. John Craddock, Commander, U.S. European Command, who recently visited Georgia to assess the situation.
Since Aug. 13, Operation Assured Delivery has resulted in more than two-million pounds -- nearly $21 million worth of food, water, bedding and medical supplies -- being delivered to the Georgian people in need, said Ritchie. Ritchie added that in this week alone U.S. European Command flights have delivered 25,000 daily rations and 31,000 prepared meals to displaced persons and people in need.
"Every item delivered was requested by USAID and validated by the government of Georgia," said Ritchie. In addition to the support already provided, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Dallas arrived Aug. 27 to the Bat'umi port in the Republic of Georgia, which currently provides an established distribution hub to quickly dispense the aid. Currently, Dallas is deployed to the Sixth Fleet area of operations and is part of the larger maritime force offering humanitarian assistance. It is the second ship to offload the much needed supplies to the tens of thousands displaced people in the Republic of Georgia.
"It is fortunate to us that the Dallas happened to be in the European theater for these time engagement mission and this opportunity happens to avail itself," said Ritchie. "This is the kind of thing for which the Coast Guard has a great deal of experience. And we're proud to have them as part of the sixth fleet team that's providing this assistance." While in Bat'umi, Dallas will offload 80 pallets with more than 76,000 lbs. of humanitarian assistance supplies. The goods include hygiene items, food, milk and juices.
The first ship to dispense humanitarian assistance was USS McFaul, which arrived in Bat'umi Aug. 24 delivering 155,000 pounds of aid to Georgia. USS Mount Whitney is scheduled to deploy for Georgia at the end of the month with more supplies.