News: JTF-505 supports Operation Damayan from Okinawa
Story by Lance Cpl. Lena Wakayama
CAMP COURTNEY, Okinawa — The Joint Task Force 505’s joint operations center officially activated to support Operation Damayan Nov. 16 at Camp Courtney.
JTF-505 was established to coordinate the U.S. military’s humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts, in conjunction with the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development, to support the government of the Philippines-led response to Typhoon Haiyan. The task force is comprised of U.S. Army, Marine, Navy and Air Force personnel and elements.
“The mission of the JOC, or main, is to facilitate (Lt. Gen. John Wissler’s) command and control of JTF-505,” said Maj. Bob Williams, a senior watch officer at the command center. Wissler is the commanding general of III MEF. “We do that by functioning as a fusion center. The main is where data is collected, assembled to form a coherent picture and then used to provide Lt. Gen. Wissler with the situational awareness he needs to make informed decisions.”
The JOC maintains direct contact with forward elements and coordinates with the major subordinate commands to support forward elements’ operational needs, according to Staff Sgt. Harold Vincent, the surface chief for G-4, supply and logistics, III MEF, currently serving with the Joint Deployment and Distribution Operations Center of the JOC.
“Each section has a specific button to push,” said Vincent. “They know what they have, what they can support and what they can use. That’s why we have the Air Force, Navy and Army representatives, and other civilian representatives; we can reach out to them and ask them what they can bring to the mission.”
“Somebody has to get the supplies needed for the personnel as well as shelter, food and water for the displaced personnel,” said Sgt. Norris E. Avery, an air fires chief with G-3, operations and training, III MEF. G-3 is currently in charge of tracking the flow of aircraft coming in and out of the Philippines and sourcing out aircraft. “That’s what we’re trying to get out there as fast as possible. What we do is very important.”
Having representatives from the Department of Defense, DOS and USAID in the JOC ensures all assets and capabilities are used effectively and efficiently, according to Williams.
“If we need to talk to 7th Fleet, we don’t need to send a message via Marine Corps Forces Pacific, Pacific Command and Pacific Fleet,” said Williams. “I can talk face to face with the 7th Fleet (liaison officer) who sits four feet away.”
Every unit in JTF-505 has a representative present at every hour of the day, every day of the week until the operation ends, according to Vincent.
“As long as Marines are forward (deployed), someone’s going to be here waiting for their call, just in case something comes up and they need support,” said Vincent.