US responds to Israeli request for assistance

Story and photos by Tech. Sgt. Markus M. Maier
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Two C-130J Super Hercules aircraft assigned to the 37th Airlift Squad-ron on Ramstein delivered 20 tons of fire retardant to Ben Gurion International Airport, Israel, Dec. 4.

The mission was part of a joint U.S. European Command and U.S. Air Forces in Europe effort to assist the Israeli government deal with what is considered the worst wildfire since the country’s founding in 1948.

The massive forest fire raging through Northern Israel’s Carmel Mountains, near the city of Hafia, has already claimed more than 40 lives and forced more than 17,000 people to evacuate the area.

Upon arrival at the Ben Gurion International Airport, the Ramstein aircraft were greeted by James Cunningham, U.S. ambassador to Israel, and members of the international press.

“I’m here to welcome the planes and the members of the U.S. military who are performing this very important job,” Ambassador Cunningham said. “We are seeing the delivery of the first American assistance on the ground to the international effort to deal with this terrible forest fire.”

The ambassador also talked about the partnership between the U.S. and Israel.

“This is an important demonstration of America’s support for Israel and the Israeli people, something that we are proud to be part of,” he said. “We are here out of friendship and out of support for a friend who is in a difficult spot and needs some help. Our prayers go out to those who have lost loved ones and have suffered as a result of this fire. We are going to continue with this effort until the job is done.”

An Israeli reporter covering the arrival of the fire retardant said this help is desperately needed.

“We are very tired and exhausted,” said Noganjr Neeman, an Israeli News Channel 10 aviation correspondent. “This is a very terrible disaster for us. We have never had this kind of fire here in Israel. A lot of people are forced to leave their homes and we are very grateful for the help (the U.S.) gives us.”

The fire retardant, which was purchased by U.S. EUCOM from a German commercial company, is expected to help extinguish the flames and keep them from reigniting.

“This is a good example of nations coming together to provide a response to a crisis situation,” said Army Maj. Tim McDonald, U.S. EUCOM Logistics Directorate representative. “The government of Israel has asked for our support, specifically for the fire retardant, and we are providing it in response to their request. It’s a very important mission and I’m very proud to be part of it.”