News: US sailor raised in Philippines dedicated to helping home during Operation Damayan
Story by Cpl. Brandon Suhr
VILLAMOR AIR BASE, the Republic of the Philippines — U.S. service members are contributing their unique capabilities in support of the Armed Forces of the Philippines during Operation Damayan to assist the millions of people affected by Typhoon Haiyan, which struck Nov. 7 with destructive winds gusting up to an estimated 230 mph.
A handful of the U.S. service members contributing were born and raised in the Philippines for part of their life, a place they call home.
Lt. Cmdr. Eduardo M. Jimenez Jr., the deputy medical planner for 3rd Marine Logistic Group on Okinawa, currently assigned to 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade in support of Joint Task Force 505, is from Pasay City, Manila, the Philippines, where he lived for the first 19 years of his life.
On Nov. 27, 1984, Jimenez enlisted in the U.S. Navy through the Philippine enlistment program at Subic Bay, the Philippines.
“Roughly 300 to 400 people would come in each time to take the screening test, and by the end of the day there would be about 5 to 12 that were selected to be sent to boot camp in the U.S.,” said Jimenez. “It was quite a culture shock for me when I went to the U.S. because Filipinos are always really close to their family. I was the first from my family to be away for an extended timeframe.”
Prior to enlisting in the U.S. Navy, Jimenez was a student at the University of the East, in Manila. Jimenez continued his studies and has earned a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership and Human Resources from Southern Illinois University.
“It took me almost ten years to get my degree because I was always on the ships. I had to go to classes during weekends or at nights,” said Jimenez.
Jimenez was enlisted in the U.S. Navy for 14 years as a corpsman and independent-duty corpsman achieving the rank of Senior Chief Petty Officer before becoming a commissioned officer in December 1999.
“I was concerned they weren’t going to send me (to the Philippines) because I am not originally with 3rd MEB,” said Jimenez. “A friend of mine asked me to fill in for him because he was going home and I was more than willing to. I have been doing planning for the medical piece out here; making sure we have the equipment and personnel we need and making sure we know of a nearby hospital we can go to if we need to.”
Any support the U.S. military provides is part of the broader U.S. Government effort to support the Government of the Philippines’ request for humanitarian assistance. This is a joint team effort that includes coordination by the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development, in constant consultation with Philippine authorities.
“I have been working with him for a little over a week now and he is a very hard worker,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Eugene K. Capuli, a hospital corpsman with III Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, currently assigned to 3rd MEB in support of JTF-505, from Marysville, Wash. “He has a lot on his plate but he does what’s needed to get the job done, medical wise. He is pulling his weight out here … it is a team effort and we should all do our part.”
Having the opportunity to be involved in Operation Damayan means a great deal to Jimenez because the typhoon affected the nation he called home, according to Capuli.
“I am fortunate to meet such a hard worker to model myself off of,” said Capuli. “He is trying to do anything he can to help out.”
The U.S. military has a history of successfully working with international relief organizations and host nations to respond to those people affected by natural disasters.
“This is my third time working with him, and I find it (beneficial) to work with him because he is an easy-going guy and he doesn’t get too worked-up about everything,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Ryan J. Aylsworth, an entomologist with 3rd Medical Battalion currently assigned to 3rd MEB as a medical planner in support of JTF-505, from Stuart, Fla. “He has a lot of experience from both the Navy and Marine Corps, and he brings a wealth of knowledge to the table because he was prior enlisted and has been in the service for a long time.”
His current duty station on Okinawa is his first overseas duty station. He has been stationed aboard six different ships, including USS Missouri (BB-63), USS Chandler (DDG-996) and USNS Mercy (T-AH-19).
“Being here on this mission, he is obviously personally invested and it shows that he is giving (his best) all the time,” said Aylsworth. “Being from here gives him a very unique perspective as to what is going on and some of the missions we do here.”
The numerous annual exercises between the two nations has built a strong working relationship and a personal connection for many of the service members participating in Operation Damayan.
“This is the worst typhoon I have ever seen,” said Jimenez. “I have never seen this much devastation before. It is heart breaking to see the news on some days; I wish there were more I could do.”
At least three to four times a year the U.S. military is in the Philippines for different training exercises, and Jimenez makes a point of visiting because of the love he has for his home country.
“I still have tons of relatives living here that come to visit me during my-off time at the hotel,” said Jimenez. “I try to visit my family here every Christmas because it is the most festive holiday in the Philippines.”
While everybody loves to visit family, this operation is for the greater good because the country is in need of aid, according to Jimenez.
“In the medical job field we stay busy, we stay engaged and (Jimenez) is dedicated to the job,” said Aylsworth.
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