USS PELELIU, At Sea (NNS) - The last two CH-46E "Sea Knight" helicopters of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 165 (Reinforced) (HMM-165) landed, shut-down, and were chained to the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu (LHA 5) on Oct. 31, after ten weeks of flying missions over the flood-stricken country of Pakistan.

The helicopters returned to the ship as the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and embarked 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) began the retrograde of personnel and aircraft, as support to relief operations ashore conclude.

"The Navy and Marine Corps team is designed to execute a variety of complex missions," said Col. Roy Osborn, commanding officer of the 15th MEU. "This particular team performed its humanitarian aid mission as well as anyone."

Peleliu was the first Navy and Marine Corps asset to arrive off the coast of Pakistan after the flooding began. The ship was executing a regularly scheduled deployment in the 5th Fleet area of responsibility when she was directed to move across the Indian Ocean and station off the coast of Karachi, Pakistan.

Peleliu embarked three additional U.S. Navy MH-53E "Sea Dragon" helicopters from Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 15 (HM-15) while en route to Pakistan, to join the 12 U.S. Marine Corps CH-46E "Sea Knight" and CH-53E "Sea Stallion" helicopters from HMM-165 (REIN), assigned to the 15th MEU.

These helicopters worked alongside the Pakistani military to provide the Government of Pakistan with a medium and heavy-lift capability to evacuate internally displaced persons and deliver food and supplies. Throughout the ten weeks on-station, the Navy and Marine Corps team evacuated more than 9,000 people and provided more than five million pounds of relief supplies to areas inaccessible by ground vehicles.

"The extent of the flooding wiped out the ground infrastructure throughout large parts of Pakistan leaving no way for relief supplies to reach those in need. That's when our helicopters literally came to the rescue," said Capt. Dale Fuller, commander of the Peleliu ARG. "The Sailors and Marines of Peleliu ARG showed their mettle in facing some really harsh conditions, non-stop relief efforts and truly made a difference in the lives of millions of Pakistani flood victims."

Initial helicopter operations began in August at Ghazi Air Base in northern Pakistan where the flood damage was most devastating. The Peleliu ARG and 15th MEU eventually shifted operations south to Pano Aqil Air Base after additional humanitarian relief forces arrived in Ghazi. The relief efforts based out of Pano Aqil were in response to more persistent flooding in the southern areas of the country.

"I am extremely proud of all the hard work these Marines and Sailors did during the relief effort," said Lt. Col. Todd Oneto, commanding officer of HMM-165. "The combination of long hours, challenging weather and flying conditions made it difficult, but the Marines and Sailors got the job done."

Peleliu will depart the coastal waters of Pakistan, but U.S. military relief efforts in the region will continue. The Kearsarge ARG and 26th MEU continue to work with other U.S. military assets in Pakistan to assist the Government of Pakistan with relief operations from Pano Aqil.

The Peleliu ARG consists of amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu (LHA 5), amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52) and amphibious transport dock ship USS Dubuque (LPD 8).

Peleliu ARG will turn over with Kearsarge ARG as the theater reserve force for U.S. Central Command before leaving the 5th Fleet area of responsibility and transiting across the Pacific Ocean to conclude deployment when they arrive in their homeport of San Diego, Calif.

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