USS GERMANTOWN, At Sea – When responding to a natural disaster, providing effective relief for affected people requires the cooperation and knowledge of the local government.
The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, currently operating along the coast of the Republic of the Philippines, integrated a liaison officer from the Philippine Marine Corps into the command staff to help coordinate their disaster relief efforts in support of Operation Damayan , Nov. 21.
“I’m here to act as a guide, a link between [the 31st MEU] and the Philippines for providing help,” said 1st Lt. Jose Eugenio E. Eclavia, security officer for the Philippine Navy Ship Gregorio Del Pilar, Patrol Force 15, and a native of IloIlo City, Philippines.
Eclavia worked with Marines within the MEU’s Command Element to gain an understanding of the unit’s disaster relief capabilities. He then relayed that information to his superiors in the Armed Forces of the Philippines who continue to organize relief efforts through their government and the U.S. Agency for International Development.
“Through [Eclavia], we have been able to inform the Philippine government what we are capable of bringing to the relief operation,” said Capt. Matthew C. Kelly, adjutant for the 31st MEU.
The 31st MEU and the ships of Amphibious Squadron 11 are capable of delivering robust air, ground, and maritime transportation; medical and dental health services; distribution services for food, water and other supplies; and engineering assets for infrastructure repair and road clearance.
Participation in Operation Damayan marks the fifth deployment of the 31st MEU in support of disaster relief operations in just the past five years. The unit’s experience has developed their appreciation for a cooperative effort in relief.
“Working through [Eclavia] provides a local perspective of the situation, a first-hand account of how the damage affects the people,” said Kelly, a native of Carver, Mass. “Working with our brothers in the Philippine military makes sure we can get help to where it is most needed.”
The 31st MEU is deployed at the request of the government of the Philippines and in coordination with Joint Task Force 505 personnel and the U.S. Agency for International Development. The 31st MEU is the Marine Corps’ force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific and the only continuously forward-deployed MEU.