This time, he is put up in an old mansion that until a few months ago was the Communist Party guest house. He is wined -- or vodka-ed -- and dined by city officials.
Major Slifka's team has already spent a week in Ulan Ude, near Lake Baikal to the west, and the better part of a week in Chita deciding how to distribute the aid and determining long-term needs. They also are to make sure the food gets where it is supposed to go -- in this case, four homes for the elderly and two orphanages.
Four hours after the plane lands, a shipment -- escorted by two Russian military jeeps and two police cars -- arrives at Atamanovka Home for the Elderly No. 2.
There, a human chain of about 30 women forms up three flights of stairs, passing the heavy boxes from one to the other. Local government officials are astonished when Major Slifka and his men pitch in to help the women.
As boxes of vanilla pudding pile up in the storeroom, Ivan Chukavkin, 77, walks stiffly along a corridor. He is proudly wearing four rows of faded military ribbons, 17 medals won in three wars.
Life, he says, isn't too bad in this home, which has 350 people and only three showers. It is tidy; the residents clean their own rooms. But it is cool and all the women wear hats or scarves.
"They treat us normally," Mr. Chukavkin says. "We are dressed. We have clothes. We have shoes. It's better to live here than in the city. Here they care for us."
Mr. Chukavkin gets 60 rubles a month for running the elevator -- about 60 cents at the current exchange rate. "I have to buy cigarettes, I have to buy matches, I have to buy tea," he says.
Mr. Chukavkin remains puzzled about how everything fell apart. "When Stalin was alive," he says, "we were able to restore the country in 23 years after the war. In five years [of perestroika] we managed to destroy it. It isn't us who destroyed it. It is the government, of course."
Standing near him, Ksenia Yakimova, 75, girlishly draws a lacy curtain next to her face. She is unsure about what Lunch Bucket lasagna might be, or chili with beans. But she is touched that Americans would want to give her some.
"I have no one else to care about me," she says. "Thank God we are here. Here we are warm. We have clean sheets, and it's so difficult everywhere."
Valentina Fomichova, director of the home, says the food delivery will ease pressure on the welfare system, which depends on a nearly bankrupt government for support.
The home is doing all it can, she says. Some residents sew tablecloths and aprons, which they sell. The home has a pigsty and a garden, tended mostly by employees with the help of those residents who are able.
The people of Chita will not starve, says Nikolai P. Nazarov, vice chairman of the regional administration. Though prices are exorbitant for the average person, he says, somehow Chita will make it through the next months.
He is less confident about next year.
"Our region imported a great deal of its food," he says. Once Ukraine sent sugar. Now that supply has been cut off, and there is none. "I think this humanitarian aid is very good, but we need help in constructing meat- and milk-processing plants."
In Ulan Ude, officials told Major Slifka the system is so poor that cattle starved before reaching the slaughterhouse.
Medical supplies that once came from Eastern Europe are nearly depleted. The Americans are told of surgery performed with bare hands because gloves were gone, of sophisticated diagnostic equipment that is unused for lack of proper chemicals.
Major Slifka got his own message.
"This is only the first phase," he says. "We want to draw up an intermediate and long-term plan, hooking up hospitals here with hospitals in the U.S., companies here with businessmen in the U.S. We understand using 60 tons of fuel to send 20 tons of food is not a good trade-off."