By Specialist 2nd Class Shannon Heavin
AT SEA – The George Washington Strike Group (GWSG) arrived in the vicinity of the Leyte Gulf, Nov. 14, to support the Third Marine Expeditionary Brigade in assisting the Philippine government in ‘Operation Damayan’ in response to the aftermath of the Super Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda in the Republic of the Philippines.
“We’ve completed our high-speed transit and linked up with our U.S. Navy logistical assets from Commander, Task Force 73, which brings 7th Fleet naval forces to participate in ‘Operation Damayan’ in the Republic of the Philippines,” said Rear Adm. Mark Montgomery, commander, GWSG. “Specifically, the aircraft carrier, USS George Washington and the cruisers USS Antietam and USS Cowpens will go to a position just off the eastern coast of Samar island in order to begin to assess the damage and provide logistical and emergency support to include medical and water supplies.”
In preparation to provide relief support, the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) and embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5 flew a number of fixed winged aircraft to Naval Air Facility Atsugi this morning creating more room on the carrier’s flight deck for helicopter operations.
“One of the best capabilities the Strike Group brings is our 21 helicopters. These helicopters represent a good deal of lift to move emergency supplies around.”
Also, today the Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo ship USNS Charles Drew (T-AKE-10) transported 11 pallets ashore – 8 pallets containing 1920 gallons of water and 3 pallets of food stores to Tacloban airfield. The Charles Drew is also moving several pallets of water to Guiuan airfield today.
“We have ships conducting a variety of missions. The USNS Bowditch (T-AGS 62) is surveying water conditions in the Leyte Gulf. USNS Charles Drew and USS Lassen have helicopters and supplies that are bringing emergency supplies into Tacloban, one of the hard hit areas. Emory S. Land also provides a good ship-to-shore hotel services to Tacloban. The George Washington, Cowpens and Antietam are off the east coast of Samar. A third area of focus is Ormoc, where we’re sending USS Mustin right now,” said Montgomery.
Currently, the George Washington Strike Group consists of Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73), Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers USS Cowpens (CG 63) and USS Antietam (CG 54), Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Lassen (DDG 82) and USS Mustin (DDG 89), and Clark-class dry cargo ship USNS Charles Drew (T-AKE-10), Pathfinder class oceanographic survey ship USNS Bowditch (T-AGS 62), and submarine tender USS Emory S. Land (AS-39).