WHITE BEACH NAVAL FACILITY, OKINAWA, JAPAN
WHITE BEACH NAVAL FACILITY, Okinawa - Approximately 900 Marines and Sailors of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, part of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, embark aboard the USS Germantown (LSD 42) and USS Ashland (LSD 48), and are heading for the Philippines to join U.S. and Philippine forces support of ongoing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts for Operation Damayan, which means "lend a helping hand" in Filipino.
"Our condolences are with the people of the Philippines, who have experienced incredible loss as a result this horrific disaster," said Col. John Merna, commanding officer, 31st MEU. "The Marines and Sailors of the 31st MEU, along with our counterparts of Amphibious Squadron 11, have trained extensively for these types of missions. By working with the (Armed Forces of the Philippines) during recent exercises, we have built lasting relationships that will better help us to ease the suffering of our Filipino friends."
The 31st MEU recently completed a regularly scheduled Patrol of the Asia-Pacific region and was in the midst of unit turnover when the order was received to support the HA/DR operation
Marines from the 3rd MEB, along with supplies and equipment, have already been sent to the affected region with more expected to follow in the coming days.
It has been reported that over 6.9 million Filipinos, along with 150,000 homes destroyed, have been affected by this storm across the 41 provinces in the Philippines.
President Barack Obama pledged U.S. support to the Philippines, Nov. 14, saying that "...one of our core principles is when friends are in trouble, America helps."
While the scope of the disaster is still being assessed, the duration and extent of the 31st MEU's operations will depend on the request from the Government of the Philippines and priorities from USAID.
"The Marine Corps as a whole, and the 31st MEU in particular, has had a long-standing relationship with the people of the Philippines," said Merna. "It's an important mission anytime we do something like this, but when it's a close friend and ally, it makes it that much more serious for us, and we'll stay as long as we're asked to."
In October 2012, the 31st MEU trained in various locations in the Philippines with the AFP during Amphibious Landing Exercise 2012 (PHIBLEX), a bilateral training event designed to enhance interoperability and response during missions such as this.
The 31st MEU and PHIBRON 11 team has responded to four humanitarian assistance disaster relief situations in the last five years alone. The Marines and Sailors have a robust air, ground, and maritime transportation capability; medical and dental health services; distribution services; and engineering assets ready to provide assistance.
The 31st MEU includes more than 2,200 Marines and Sailors and is comprised of four elements: the Command Element; Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines; Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 (Reinforced) and CLB-31.
The 31st MEU provides a forward-deployed, flexible, sea-based force capable of conducting amphibious operations, crisis response and limited contingency operations in the Asia-Pacific region. The 31st MEU is the only continually forward-deployed MEU, and remains the Marine Corps' force-in-readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.
For more information about the deployment of the 31st MEU, follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/31stMEU or visit our webpage at: http://www.31stmeu.marines.mil.
For interested media, official Marine Corps video and imagery from Operation Damayan will be available for your use, viewing and downloading at http://www.dvidshub.net/unit/31MEU. There is no cost for these products, but registration on this government site is required for download.
Media queries regarding the 31st MEU may be directed to Capt. Garron Garn, 31st MEU public affairs officer at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
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