News: WHO assumes support role in Borongan
Story by Cpl. Brandon Suhr
BORONGAN, Philippiines - U.S. service members with Joint Special Operation Task Force-Philippines have transitioned much of their support responsibilities to the World Health Organization after supporting the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Government of the Philippines with distribution of relief supplies to areas affected by Typhoon Haiyan.
The JSOTF-P assisted with aid delivery, recovery flight operations and connected countless volunteers with prominent local officials upon their arrival in Borongan City.
“The U.S. military presence certainly helped, particularly around the logistics area and being able to ferry people out and supplies in,” said Ina Bluemel, a public health specialist with the WHO. “The Philippine government is doing very well, considering the scale of the destruction. Along the way we saw some seriously devastated cities, but we started to see people nailing plastic sheeting around their houses and trying to recover what they could; they certainly do not want to sit around and wait.”
At approximately 11 p.m. Nov. 24, in the pitch-black foggy night, a U.S. Air Force MC-130J Hercules aircraft touched down to embark the service members and WHO members following their successful mission of supporting the AFP during Operation Damayan. The unique capabilities the groups had provided were no longer needed, and the transition of all the responsibilities they had supported was completed with local officials.
“This represents how we have completed our mission in one area, and are now able to re-posture our forces,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Mike Jackson, the commander of 1st Special Operations Squadron, currently assigned to Joint Task Force 505. “It also demonstrates a successful transition.”
U.S. Pacific Command maintains a forward presence throughout the Asia-Pacific region, ready to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief when requested. Joint Task Force 505 offers a balanced military support capability through which the U.S. Government can assist the Philippines or any other nation affected by a crisis or contingency.
The WHO members were in Borongan to assess the health situation for the survivors remaining in the area.
Along with the WHO assessment team, international health agencies were moving into more remote areas with AFP partners to gain a better understanding of the medical aid being provided, according to Bluemel.
The role of the U.S. military during any foreign humanitarian assistance event is to rapidly respond with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development and other agencies to help mitigate human suffering and prevent further loss of life while mitigating great property damage.
The duration and extent of U.S. military support is dependent upon the request from the government of the Philippines and the need for unique capabilities that can only be provided by U.S. forces.