SAF concludes relief efforts in Indonesia

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26oct18_news
26 Oct 2018 | OPS & TRAINING

SAF concludes relief efforts in Indonesia

// Report by Thrina Tham

// Photos by Kenneth Lin & courtesy of SAF Film Unit & RSAF

English Melayu

The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) concluded its 25-day relief effort in Palu, Indonesia with the return of the Republic of Singapore Air Force's (RSAF's) C-130 crew on 26 Oct.

Following the earthquake and tsunami that struck on 28 Sep, the SAF had deployed two RSAF C-130 transport aircraft and its crew to Indonesia on 2 Oct. They delivered relief packages comprising tents, meal rations, bottled water and medical supplies. The aircraft and crew then remained in Indonesia to assist with the Indonesian authorities' relief efforts.

The first C-130 aircraft returned on 17 Oct while the second landed at Paya Lebar Air Base (PLAB) at around 10am on 26 Oct. Although the crew said they were glad to return to Singapore, the mood was heavier when they were on the ground in Palu, a city in the disaster-hit island of Sulawesi, Indonesia.

Recalling the devastation there, Military Expert 4 (ME4) Brian Rezel said: "All we could see were rooftops protruding out of the mud – the whole area was buried." He said that the experience had left a deep impression on him.

One of the RSAF's tasks was to ferry survivors out of Palu to safer places. "There was one time this elderly lady approached me and she held my hand and said 'terima kasih' (or thank you in Bahasa Indonesia)," recounted ME4 Rezel.

Even though the crew was tired (they typically worked 11 hours each day from 6am to 5pm), these small gestures reminded them of the impact of their work, said the Air Force Engineer.

The RSAF aircrew also worked closely with their Indonesian counterparts to transport food and medical supplies to hard-to-reach areas in Palu.

While there, the crew had to carry out tasks that differed from their usual day-to-day operations, said National Contingent Commander Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Oh Chun Keong.

 "Time was of the essence because it was a congested area and the flight schedule was packed. But we worked with the Indonesians and we managed to complete our tasks quickly," added LTC Oh.

In total, the RSAF flew over 90 sorties, transported close to 800 displaced persons out of the affected areas and ferried more than 250 tons of supplies.

The situation in Palu has improved over time, added LTC Oh. "While I think there are still some efforts required to recover and reconstruct Palu, I'm confident that the Indonesians will be able to do the job," he said.

Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant-General (LG) Melvyn Ong, Chief of Air Force Major-General (MG) Mervyn Tan and other senior SAF officers received the returning personnel of the second C-130 at PLAB on 26 Oct.

For Captain (CPT) Elson Wong, it was an especially sweet homecoming as he was reunited with his wife, Yi Jie, and their six-week-old baby girl, Amellia.

His wife remained supportive throughout his three-week deployment, said CPT Wong. It also helped that he could catch up with his family on the phone during his free time.

"I was more motivated (to work hard) because I knew I could video-call them at the end of the long day," said the Navigator on board the C-130.

"Even though I was 700 miles away from home, I got to see my baby and it made me feel that I wasn't too far away."


At a glance: SAF efforts in Indonesia

28 Sep: Earthquake and tsunami hits Sulawesi, Indonesia

1 Oct: SAF offers assistance following Indonesia's call for international help

2 Oct: Two C-130 transport aircraft deliver relief packages comprising tents, meal rations, bottled water and medical supplies

3 Oct: The aircraft and aircrew remain in Indonesia to support its disaster relief efforts

17 Oct: First aircraft returns to Singapore

26 Oct: Second aircraft returns to Singapore

In total, the RSAF flew over 90 sorties, transported close to 800 displaced persons out of the affected areas and ferried more than 250 tons of supplies.

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