Bare-chested porters briskly pulled 195 sacks of split peas from an Air Force C-130 cargo plane on Friday as "Operation Provide Relief" made its first delivery in the drought-stricken Horn of Africa.
The plane, carrying 10 1/2 tons of food, swept into this remote town Friday, beginning a massive military relief effort to relieve catastrophic famine in Somalia and northeast Kenya.The food brought into Wajir, an administrative center for Kenya's border region, will help suffering Kenyans and some of the 320,000 Somali refugees who have entered Kenya.
The plane, based in Little Rock, Ark., is part of a 750-member U.S. military operation. It landed shortly before dusk, its flight delayed from early morning by a bureaucratic dispute between Kenya and the United States.
The impasse was resolved around midday, clearing the way for the 80-minute flight from the Indian Ocean port of Mombasa to Wajir's hard-surface runway, set amid thorny bush.
The plane was met by a handful of Kenyan soldiers and administrators, a few relief officials and the porters.
For many of the U.S. troops, working to halt famine represents a change of pace, and not just in relation to stateside routines.
"Ninety percent of them went to the desert, and we had to do that thing," said Air Force Sgt. Tom Hill, referring to last year's gulf war. "Now we're doing something good. It kind of equals things out."