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Chinese, US militaries practice disaster relief

Updated: 2013-11-16 16:14
( China Daily)

Chinese, US militaries practice disaster relief

Chinese medics check the condition of a US soldier in a joint disaster-relief drill on Thursday at Bellows Air Force Station on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. [Photo by Yu Wei/China Daily]

Imagine an earthquake following a hurricane that has just crashed ashore, shoving a 6-meter-high wall of water inland. Communities have been leveled by both storm and tremor. Buried in the debris, people are crying for help. Chaos reigns, and survivors of all ages are suffering.

To the rescue comes a new cavalry - a mixture of Chinese and US soldiers working together to relieve the victims.

In Hawaii on Thursday, international media witnessed the conclusion of joint exercises, in which Chinese and US military personnel demonstrated how they could cooperate for disaster relief.

The drills began on Tuesday at Bellows Air Force Station on the island of Oahu.

"It is not difficult for me to communicate with our US partners as I have learned English for years and was part of the (UN) peacekeeping mission in Lebanon," Yin Chunhong, a colonel from Kunming General Hospital of Chengdu Military Area Command, told China Daily.

She is among 48 Chinese officers and soldiers from different departments who were chosen to participate in the drill.

"Through face-to-face communication and field drills, soldiers from both countries enhanced mutual trust and now have a better understanding about each other's disaster relief approaches," said Liu Yongwei, a Chinese sergeant.

It was the ninth disaster-relief exchange between China and the United States. Last year's exercise took place in the Chengdu Military Area Command.

Gary Hara, deputy commander of the Army National Guard at US Army Pacific, said the drill is a "historic moment". He said he is very happy that the US military has the opportunity to communicate with Chinese officers and soldiers.

"Right now, the focus remains on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief," he said. "We would like to keep this type of environment and make it more complex in the future. American soldiers learned a lot from the Chinese side."

"Initially, the PLA (People's Liberation Army) did one event and the US did another," Hara said. "And now you can see us working side by side on the same event. That is the real progress we made here."

Zhao Kaizeng, deputy political commissar of the Chengdu Military Area Command, echoed Hara: "This time, the two armies trained together and learned from each other. They got a better understanding of each other, and the relationship between the two sides has been enhanced."

"Officers and soldiers from both sides showed the public their professionalism and excellent skills. I'm very proud of that," Zhao said.

Earlier this year, during a summit with US President Barack Obama in Sunnyvale, California, President Xi Jinping said the two sides should strengthen military-to-military relationships and promote a new model.

Thursday's drill was a milestone: It was the first time that the Chinese military took part in a joint drill on US territory.

The exercises showcased disaster-relief equipment as well as professional skills in the field. A follow-up academic exchange between officers of the two sides will take place in Washington and New York.

The US sent 47 people to the Hawaii drill, with participants selected from US Army Pacific, the Hawaii Army National Guard, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The exchanges sprang from an agreement between China and the US in 1997.

"This kind of cooperation on a non-sensitive issue could help the US and China establish a stronger friendship," Denny Roy, a senior fellow at the East-West Center, told China Daily.

It could make it easier for the two countries to develop habits of cooperation and perhaps even solve some difficult problems in the future, he said.

"In any case the joint exercise has value beyond merely sharing technical expertise," he said.

Contact the writers at chenjia@chinadailyusa.com

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