News: Soldiers contribute to joint task force to help relief efforts in Philippines
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Howard Reed
CAMP COURTNEY, Okinawa, Japan– More than two weeks ago Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines and left behind a path of destruction the region will not forget for a long time. The remnants of the super typhoon were staggering as an estimated 4,000 were killed and another 18,000 injured.
To help provide critical life support to the area Joint Task Force 505 was organized by the Department of Defense and the Pacific Command to provide relief efforts for the citizens of Philippines. JTF-505 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines have worked vigorously within the past week to ensure it provides the best life sustaining support operations.
The joint task force, which operates a forward element in the Philippines and a rear element in Okinawa, Japan, is charged with coordinating the U.S. military’s 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.
U.S. Army Pacific, in support of PACOM and Marine Forces Pacific Command is supporting humanitarian assistance operations to assist with relief operations to ease further loss of life and suffering, and reduce the scope of the disaster that has affected the Philippines.
Army Lt. Col. Anthony Lee, a support operations officer assigned to the 10th Regional Support Group is serving as an Army liaison officer with JTF-505 in Okinawa, explained USARPAC soldiers are working non-stop within JTF 505 to help disaster relief support operations.
“We have about 100 soldiers who have deployed forward or supporting the effort here on Okinawa,” said Lee. “We’re supporting the JTF with individual augmentees to the joint staff from personnel, logistics and staff judge advocate experts to help support USAID and their efforts to mitigate suffering in the area.
Lee also explained that soldiers are assigned to JTF-505’s joint logistical command center and movement control team in the Philippines helping provide key analysis and data toward the synchronization of support for mission success.
The joint operations center in Okinawa provides the forward element with intrinsic data and information that is vital in helping commanders make plans and informed decisions in support of relief operations. To date, JTF-505 has delivered more than 3.3 million pounds of equipment and supplies and helped more than 15,000 displaced persons affected by Typhoon Haiyan.
Australian Maj. Gen. Richard Burr, USARPAC’s deputy commanding officer for operations, paid a visit to JTF-505’s joint operations center on Okinawa to get an operations brief and meet the joint team. Burr, at the end of the brief, said USARPAC was pleased that the joint effort was coordinated and organized.
“It’s important that we’re seen as one team on the relief efforts, and on behalf of USARPAC thanks and well done here,” added Burr.
Lee added that the Army’s participation on the joint staff speaks volumes for the future joint support operations on Okinawa.
“We were able to move within 24 hours and integrate with the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force team on Okinawa to provide critical support,” said Lee. “This proves that we can successfully be integrated into a joint staff and perform as a member of a team.”