By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brian H. Abel
ORMAC CITY, Republic of the Philippines - The Military Sealift Command dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Charles Drew (T-AKE 10) keeps warships like the U.S. Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) mission ready with fresh food, JP-5 and even ammunition with vertical replenishments and conventional replenishments.
During Operation Damayan, Charles Drew provided humanitarian relief to the Republic of the Philippines in the aftermath of super Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda with its ability to produce 16,000 gallons of fresh, clean drinking water with a capacity of 50,000 gallons for the displaced residents per day.
“We can produce 2,500 to 2,800 gallons of drinkable water every four hours,” said Keith Willeford, Charles Drew’s 3rd assistant engineer watch. “We were ready with water when we arrived.
The crew of the Charles Drew prepared days in advance to accomplish aggressive helicopter lift operations in order to provide Ormac City residents with drinking water and food provided by international agencies.
“We produced ice by placing water in bags inside of boxes and then we froze it,” said Norflis McCullough, Charles Drew’s supply officer. “We started the whole process six days before we started delivering it to areas in the Philippines.”
As MH-60S Seahawk helicopters from the “Island Knights” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 25 landed in isolated villages to deliver water and supplies, residents expressed deep appreciation of the support provided by the U.S. Navy, Charles Drew, the Republic of Philippines government and other international aid agencies in light of the tragedy.
“It was rewarding to do my job, the situation was bittersweet considering how bad people were suffering,” said Air Survival Equipment Specialist 2nd Class Peter Glatt, from Linton, North Dakota. “After we delivered the water and supplies, the people were waving their hearts out as we flew away. It felt really good to help.”
The George Washington Strike Group is working with the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade to assist the Philippines government in response to the aftermath of typhoon Haiyan in the Republic of the Philippines.