ALEX CHADWICK, host:
In Myanmar today, an American military cargo plane landed in Yangon with 28,000 pounds of relief supplies.
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
It's part of a U.S. military operation called "Joint Task Force Caring Response." Another two planes should get in over the next day or so. And there's more help waiting off the coast of Myanmar, a small flotilla of U.S. Navy ships.
CHADWICK: Colonel John Mayer's the commanding officer of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit on board the Essex. Colonel Mayer, how many Marines do you have there, and what would they be doing?
Colonel JOHN MAYER (Commander, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit): We have approximately 2,000 Marines, and they are participating in an exercise called the Golden Island. We left many of them there to continue on with the exercise, and then the remainder of the Marines have embarked aboard the amphibious-ready group. And we are now moving to posture to better able to respond to the disaster of the tropical cyclone Nargis.
CHADWICK: Colonel Mayer, what sort of resources could your Marines deliver in the event that you are eventually allowed to get into Myanmar?
Col. MAYER: Right now in Burma, potable water is a big shortage. We have the capability of producing 5,000 gallons of water an hour from shore. We also divide up into - we can divide up into four medical teams that can treat hundreds of patients a day. So, if allowed by the government of Burma, we could of course bring in engineering assets to clear debris, help out with clearing up some of the roads so that perhaps some of the other nine government agencies could move their foodstuffs in - we could - naval support.
CHADWICK: Are you able to look at surveillance of the region that's been struck? Do you have any way of knowing exactly the scale of the task before you?
Col. MAYER: Alex, we are of course part of a multi-national and also a joint-task force that's been put together, so we would pretty much work with the government of Burma, and where they would need supplies delivered to. And of course, we would provide whatever assistance we could whenever possible.
CHADWICK: When do you think that will be possible, Colonel?
Col. MAYER: Well, we're hoping as soon as the government of Burma will let us in, and we could go. Most of us, including myself, I have three small daughters and a beautiful wife, and I can picture them in a situation like this. And I would sure want people to have as much capability as we have to come, and as quickly as we could, and provide help. So, you see the same images on TV and know that we can help out those in greatest need. So, we're hoping soon.
We've got water standing by sitting here ready to be flown in by helicopter. We've got doctors practicing out here aboard ship how to get out to the remote areas and help out folks. The Marines and sailors are down there filling these five gallon water jugs today that we will fly in by helicopters. The Marines are putting their water processing systems they can take saltwater and turn it into fresh water, they're putting those on the landing craft, and we're preparing to go. We just need the word, and we'll be ready to go in.
CHADWICK: Colonel John Mayer commands the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit aboard the USS Essex group. They are standing by off the coast of Myanmar waiting for the call to go ashore as part of an international relief effort.
And stay with us on Day to Day on NPR News.