News: USS Cowpens lends helping hand during Operation Damayan
By Lt. j.g. Catherine Sheerin
USS Cowpens Public Affairs
PHILIPPINE SEA – After a few days in port Hong Kong, San Diego based Ticonderoga guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens’ mission shifted, to provide immediate aid in the aftermath of the Super Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda in namely Samar and Leyte Island of the Republic of the Philippines.
The Typhoon severely devastated the island after 195 mph winds struck Nov. 7, claiming the title as ‘one of the worst typhoons in years.'
Operating with the George Washington Carrier Strike Group (GWCSG), Republic of Philippine government, and the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, the ‘Mighty Moo’ crew of Cowpens is prepared and enthused to be a part of Operation Damayan.
Damayan, meaning “to help in a time of need,” bears an appropriate namesake and mindset for the humanitarian aid and disaster relief efforts from joint forces, Republic of the Philippines government, U.S. Agency for International Development, DoD, various supporting volunteers, and international partners.
Cowpens, anchored off the coast of Samar, currently has embarked helicopter squadron, “Immortals” of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light Four Nine (HSL) 49 Det. Six, flying two helicopters and a motivated crew. They are delivering water and rice from Tacloban Air Base to different safe landing zones throughout the islands. These rice and water supply-drops are providing sustenance and encouragement to the Filipino people. 4,000 pounds of food and potable water were delivered Nov. 15, with many more to follow.
The Immortals are also standing by to provide search and rescue (SAR) and medical evacuation support if necessary. The Immortals are quite familiar with the medevac procedures, after rescuing two badly burned mariners from a cargo ship and flying them to a nearby hospital in Busan, South Korea, last month.
Cowpens sailors are wholeheartedly set on lending a helpful hand in any way possible. Culinary Specialist Seaman David Sweeney, from Cowpens’ Supply Department was happy to be involved in Operation Damayan.
“I feel a sense of pride being a part of this. Supporting the Philippines makes this deployment that much more worthwhile,” said Sweeny.
In addition, the ship’s small boat crews are ready for action, the flight deck team has been operating continuously, and every Sailor is working together to ensure that they can provide as much relief as possible to the Filipino people.
“I’m awfully proud of my sailors. One day they’re in Hong Kong acting as ambassadors while on liberty and in community relations projects across the city and the following day they’re turning their selflessness into action in the Philippines,” said Capt. Greg Gombert, commanding officer of Cowpens.
Cowpens is with the George Washington Carrier Strike Group and the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade assisting the Philippines government in response to the aftermath of typhoon Haiyan in the Republic of the Philippines.