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Peterson Space Observer

Airman returns home to Nepal earthquake

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Melissa White/Released) U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Manoj Khatiwada, 21st Medical Operations Squadron aerospace medical technician, stand in front of a pallet of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief supplies, Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, Nepal, May 8, 2015. Four days after the earthquake in Nepal, Khatiwada was on a C-17 with members of the 36th Contingency Response Group on their way to Nepal. He recently finished a master’s degree in Cyber Security and hopes to cross train into Cyber Defense Operations.

By Maj. Ashley Conner

Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs

KATHMANDU, Nepal  —  When Senior Airman Manoj Khatiwada was asked to join a team of Pacific Air Force Airmen traveling to Nepal to assist the government with relief operations following a magnitude 7.8 earthquake, he was filled with mixed emotions.

“Returning to Nepal for this mission was an emotional moment for me. I didn’t know how I would react seeing the city where I was born and raised destroyed,” said Khatiwada, a 21st Medical Operations Squadron aerospace medical technician. “Thousands of Nepalese died and thousands are injured. I am happy that I am here but I am sad to see this happen to Nepal.”

Khatiwada was born and raised in Nepal and came to the United States in 2009 after winning permanent residency through the DV lottery program. Each year, the U.S. government makes 50,000 permanent residence visas available through the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. The DV program was designed to bring greater racial and ethnic diversity to the United States. It offers 50,000 permanent residency visas to citizens of nations that have traditionally low levels of immigration to the United States.

“Since childhood, I have had the desire to be in uniform and serve in the military,” he said. “I was fortunate to join the world’s greatest military and serve the men and women who welcomed me with open arms.”

Since arriving in Nepal, Khatiwada has played a critical link between the Nepalese and the 36th Contingency Response Group in their effort to assist the Nepalese with accelerating airfield operations and increase the capacity to bring in aid via airlift, and ultimately distribute aid faster to those affected by this disaster.

“Having Senior Airman Khatiwada embedded with our team has helped us better communicate how we can assist the people of Nepal in the relief efforts,” said Lt. Col. Glenn Rinehart, 36th Mobility Response Squadron commander. “He understands their interests and helps ensure effective communication so we can work together better. What would have normally taken days to orchestrate, he has been able to communicate and coordinate within hours.”

Khatiwada said his most rewarding part of his job was being able to work with the two countries he loves the most.

“The United States has always been generous and supportive to Nepal and the Nepalese. I am very thankful that the U.S. military is able to assist USAID and the Nepal government in the relief operations,” he said. “This support means a lot to the country.”

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