News: Operation Damayan in full swing
Story by Cpl. Jose Lujano
MANILA, Philippines - By Wednesday morning, U.S. Marines from 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade (3rd MEB) had distributed approximately 384,400 pounds of relief supplies and helped 1,735 people displaced by Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda find their way to Manila.
Operation Damayan, the U.S. government’s response to the Philippine government’s request for humanitarian assistance, had led to 12 U.S. Marine KC-130J Hercules helicopters and eight MV-22B Ospreys from 1st Marine Aircraft Wing (1st MAW) to deploy to the Philippines to help supplies, survivors, military and civilian relief personnel reach typhoon affected areas of the country still largely impassable due to debris, flooding and a breakdown in ground transportation.
"Clearly the U.S. military offers additional and unique airlift capabilities," said Daniel Dieckhaus, a humanitarian assistance adviser with the office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance. "With the U.S. and Philippine armed forces combining their air transport capabilities, we can reach some of the isolated areas much more quickly."
U.S. relief efforts include maritime search and rescue, fixed-wing lift support, medium to heavy helicopter lift support and logistics enablers.
“The current situation remains the same. It’s a serious disaster and there are a lot of people in need,” said Dieckhaus. “But we have ramped up significantly in the last 72 to 96 hours and we know where to target. We are here, but there is a lot of work to do.”
“The men and woman of the U.S. armed forces assisting the Republic of the Philippines are as dedicated to this mission as they are to the defense of their country,” said Brig. Gen. Paul Kennedy, the deputy commander of III Marine Expeditionary Force and the commanding general of the 3rd MEB. “Assisting fulfills a promise that we made to friends and allies we’ve maintained a great relationship with over the last 100 years to be here in their time of need.”
Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda has impacted more than 4.2 million people across 36 provinces in the Philippines, according to the Philippine’s national disaster risk reduction and management council.
Although stressful, hectic and at times confusing, this real-world operation tested the joint training and collaboration skills of U.S. and Philippine forces, who worked together to resolve problems and provide aid as one unit during the Philippine-led operation.
“We have been working with [Marines] all throughout the year and for years before that,” said Col. Miguel E. Okol, the director of the public information office, Philippine air force. “The Marine Corps is optimized similar to ours, very disciplined and hardworking and on behalf of our leadership we appreciate their help.”