News: Logistics Marines keep relief aid moving
Story by Cpl. Brandon Suhr
LUZON, Philippines - One full-grown adult elephant weighs approximately four tons, 8,000 pounds, and is the size of two cars stacked on top of each other.
During Operation Damayan, Marines with Combat Logistics Battalion 4 prepare and load relief supplies weighing up to 12 times that of an elephant onto aircraft each day at Villamor Air Base.
The aid consists of food, water, hygiene materials, medical supplies and plastic sheeting for citizens throughout the Philippines affected by Typhoon Haiyan, which made landfall Nov. 7 with record breaking wind speeds that affected more than 4 million people.
Approximately 100,000 pounds of relief aid and military equipment is prepared, loaded and flown out through here each day, according to 1st Lt. Mason D. McKee, a logistics officer with CLB-4, currently assigned to 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade in support of Joint Task Force 505, and a native of Glendale, Ariz.
“If the total amount of cargo we have loaded and sent out was organized in columns on pallets, it would probably cover the grass area of a football field,” said McKee. “(It might) even go into the stands a little bit.”
The relief supplies are provided by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. government’s humanitarian resource agency.
“Our mission is to save lives, alleviate suffering and reduce economic impact,” said Bob Demeranville, the head of logistics for USAID and the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance. “The most needed supplies right now are water, sanitation and shelter. We are providing water jugs, hygiene kits and large durable plastic sheets to help with those needs.”
The U.S. is committed to supporting humanitarian and disaster-relief efforts in the Asia-Pacific region and around the world, and maintains a history of successfully working with international relief organizations and host nations to respond to those people affected by natural disasters.
“I am glad the U.S. is helping the victims of the typhoon,” said Staff Sgt. Reynaldo A. Quezon, a helicopter technician and engine specialist with 5055th Field Maintenance Squadron, 505th Search and Rescue Group, Philippine Air Force, and a native of Taguig City, Lupon province, the Philippines. “This was a big part in accomplishing the mission of helping Philippine citizens, by providing relief and supplies to the victims.”
The Marines increase the turnaround time of the aircraft transporting the relief supplies by remaining organized, vigilant and prepared for anything, according to McKee.
“(The Marines) are very passionate about it because they know that people need these supplies as soon as possible,” said McKee. “They have been motivated the entire time; they never got discouraged, and it is really paying off.
“Organization is key to knowing what is priority and saving on time and work for us all,” added McKee. “We are constantly busy because there is always something to be done. Each day, we load approximately seven or eight (Boeing C-17 Globemaster III) with up to six pallets of supplies in each. Our motivation keeps us moving all the time because we all know this is for a good cause.”
Marines are working quickly, knowing their efforts are vital to the mission. As of Nov. 24, more than 2,000 tons of relief supplies have been distributed to communities affected by Haiyan.
“Our entire battalion is always prepared,” said Lance Cpl. David V. Whitehead, a landing support specialist with CLB-4, and a native of Huntersville, N.C. “When the call was made, our bags were already packed and ready to go. I am happy to be here with the guys that I am here with. I feel it is better organized with these (Marines) here.”
The U.S. stands by its allies in times of crises or contingencies and have provided humanitarian and disaster relief support to the Philippines on 40 occasions since 1990.
“I like to see everyone working so hard to help other people,” said Quezon. “I would like to thank everyone for their support. I am hoping the whole nation has love in their heart and mind. I am praying that everyone has strength and good health.”