- The Washington Times - Friday, August 15, 2008

The Pentagon has flown 86 tons of humanitarian supplies into the Georgian capital of Tbilisi on two C-17 and two C-130 aircraft as of Friday, a top military official said Friday.

The humanitarian aide — delivered through what military officials are calling a “sustained air bridge” — has taken the form of cots, sleeping bag, blankets and 1,200 pounds of antibiotics, said Rear Admiral Steven Romano, U.S. European Command Director of Logistics.

He said medical supplies such as splints, bandages and field examination tables had also been transported.

Rear Admiral Romano said he is in close contact with a U.S. advanced assessment team currently on the ground in Georgia to find critical need spots and access security.

Information from that team, as well as from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. State Department and the government of Georgia will determine the content of future cargo lifts, he said. He said U.S. soldiers were not handing out aide in the country, only transferring cargo to officials from Georgia and the other two U.S. agencies for distribution.

The supplies are being drawn from a State Department warehouse located near the U.S.’s Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

Rear Admiral Romano said officials are working on other options, including the possibility of ferrying supplies via naval ships into Georgia’s Black Sea ports, and making use of pre-positioned ships in the Mediterranean.

The World Food Program is currently assisting the government of Georgia with food delivery.

But Rear Admiral Romano said the Pentagon is ready to coordinate requests for rations and other food commodities. Thus far, he said, the Georgian government has not asked the Department of Defense for food.

The first relief flights landed in Georgia only 96 hours after the beginning of the crisis, he noted, adding that two C-130 on average are departing from Ramstein each day. Some materials are originating in the U.S., he said.

“We have adequate capacity to sustain this effort into the weeks to come,” he said, noting that he anticipates “the scope of the operation and need to grow” based on press reports and feedback from officials on the ground.

He praised cooperation between all parties involved and said no problems have emerged thus far.

Currently, flights are only landing in the Tblisi airport, which is open and still serving some commercial airlines, he said. Rear Admiral Romano noted that Russia has pledged not to target U.S. humanitarian flights.

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