How the U.S. Military is helping with earthquake aid efforts in Türkiye & Syria

March 29, 2023 By Matthew Winson

Devastation and destruction in southern Türkiye and northern Syria took over news headlines in February, after multiple earthquakes with magnitudes over 7.5 rocked the region and left more than 50,000 people dead. When disasters like this occur around the world, lives and whole communities are at risk, as is global stability, which is why the U.S. government springs into action to help those in need.

The U.S. support response flows through the United States Agency of International Development (USAID), the government’s primary agency for international assistance. USAID currently provides humanitarian relief on five continents, helping people with issues ranging from food security to disaster relief.

In response to the earthquakes in Türkiye, USAID mobilized and deployed the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART), which consists of more than 200 people, including USAID employees, Search and Rescue Professionals from Fairfax County, Virginia, and the Los Angeles County Fire Department. DART is responsible for coordinating all U.S. operations. In addition to the DART team on the ground, President Biden authorized $50 million in Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Funds (ERMA) to help send more assistance to the people affected by this devastating earthquake. The US has sent over $185 million to Türkiye for relief efforts.

There are many moving parts to get this assistance from the states over to people in need, and that is where the partnership between U.S. civilian and military collaboration comes into play, allowing U.S. support to reach the Turkish people successfully.

One main area where the U.S. military has helped advance our humanitarian and diplomatic goals is transportation. Within 24 hours of the earthquakes, US Transportation Command sent off DART personnel and 170,000 pounds of specialized equipment on two Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, and March Air Reserve Base, California. Airmen from the 436th Aerial Port Squadron, known as “Super Port,” at Dover Air Force Base led the response.  When discussing the “Super Port” role in humanitarian assistance, commander of the 436th Airlift Wing, Colonel Matt Husemann, said, “Dover Airmen are always ready to deliver rapid global mobility to support the needs of the nation, our allies, and our partner.”

When personnel and supplies arrived in Türkiye, the U.S. military continued to assist in rescuing survivors and giving aid. All U.S.-led efforts are coordinated from an American Air Force Base, Incirlik Air Base, which is located in southern Türkiye. Besides being where all U.S. supplies are sent and distributed, the Air Base has been using all its resources to help assist Turkish authorities. Within 24 hours of the natural disasters, U.S. rotary wing assets at the base started transporting first responders to the most affected areas. Within two days, UH-60 Black Hawks began transporting injured civilians to local medical facilities, with more being sent over.

On the ground, the team leading U.S. military efforts falls under the US European Command (EUCOM). When describing the way the U.S. military can jump into action in support of our goals, EUCOM commander U.S. Army General Christopher G. Cavoli said, “From search and rescue to medical assistance and humanitarian aid, our command is working with other U.S. government agencies to provide assistance requested by the government of Türkiye in the aftermath of this natural disaster. Compassion and determination are the driving forces behind every U.S. military member and civilian assisting Türkiye during these difficult days.””

In times of crisis , US civilian and military cooperation can make all the difference. And even when the crisis does not include conflict, our military’s ability to reach any part of the world quickly is an indispensable in supporting America’s diplomacy and development toolkit.