This week the Tribune has an incredible article from John Bockmann, a US Army pilot recently deployed to Pakistan as part of the American military’s disaster assistance there. US Army, Navy, and Marine helicopters all took part in the response. Some have cried that using the military in disaster relief is a threat to humanitarian principles, other fear it will shrink the humanitarian space. However, the simple fact is the US military did what NGOs could not, and saved lived. And maybe, just maybe, built some relationships along the way:
After a few weeks of packing and planning, we were ready to deploy. Full of excitement and some anxiety, I kissed my wife, took one last picture and was gone. We flew on a cargo jet from Alaska to Islamabad and the flight took so long I hardly knew whether it was day or night when we finally arrived. Shouldering my gear, I headed to the terminal, weaving among Pakistani military and civilians on the tarmac. A US Marine captain guided my group inside where we filled out information cards and relaxed in the cool quietness, surveying our area; smooth stone floors, low-slung furniture, and ceiling fans spinning high above. The captain was talking to a Pakistani man who had been helping us. Before we left, the man shook my hand and looked me in the eyes. “Thank you for coming to my poor country,” he said quietly.
I wanted to convey the depth of my feelings toward him and his homeland, but all I said was, “You would probably do the same for us” as I walked away.
Christopher R. Albon is a political science Ph.D. specializing in armed conflict, public health, human security, and health diplomacy.