CAMP FOSTER, Japan - Immediately following Typhoon Haiyan, the worst typhoon to make landfall in recorded history, according to the Philippine National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, the men and women of III Marine Expeditionary Force and Marine Corps Installations Pacific responded with the rapidity and professionalism demanded and expected of Marines in the Asia-Pacific region.
“The U.S. military has a history of successfully working with international relief organizations and host nations to respond to those people affected by natural disasters,” said Lt. Gen. John Wissler, the III MEF commanding general. “We will be present as long as we are needed, but no longer than required.”
The success of Operation Damayan, the U.S. military’s response to the disaster, symbolized the hard work, dedication to partner nations, and expeditionary mindset ingrained through numerous theater security exercises and unit-level training events held across the region in 2013.
This year, III MEF and MCIPAC personnel positioned the Marine Corps to meet growing challenges to stability in the region, whether contingencies or humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.
The highly capable MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft replaced the aging CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters, ushering in a new era for Marine Corps aviation in the Asia-Pacific region.
The Osprey’s ability to reach speeds twice as fast, travel four times further and carry triple the payload as the CH-46E proved invaluable during Operation Damayan.
Through nearly 2,000 community relation events, Marines demonstrated their willingness to not only integrate with but contribute to their host nation. Agreements were signed allowing for the safe passage of personnel and vehicles onto U.S. installations in the event of crises, and readiness was maintained during knowledge-sharing exercises with the Japan Self-Defense Force.
Marines and sailors with III MEF and MCIPAC contributed to success on the ground as part of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, facilitating combat missions, engineering projects and the complex retrograde process taking place there.
Yet as the requirements for forward-deployed combat troops subsided, a new threat emerged, which jeopardizes the Marines of the Asia-Pacific region and the Corps as a whole.
Marines were reawakened to the damaging effects of sexual assault and harassment and other behaviors detrimental to the good order and discipline expected of U.S. service members. The noncommissioned officers of III MEF and MCIPAC led by example and are continuing to combat these deficiencies daily.
During 2013, Marines excelled elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region with a multitude of partner nations.
Cobra Gold, the largest multinational exercise in the region, encompassed 13,000 service members with seven different nations participating in crises and natural disaster response through increased interoperability during field training exercises in Thailand.
Approximately 200 Marines and sailors with Marine Rotational Force-Darwin completed the second iteration of the training program based out of Northern Territory, Australia. During the six-month deployment, the service members trained with Australian Defence Force members during exercises Koolendong, Tafakula and Gold Eagle.
A strong bond was also kept between the U.S. Marine Corps and Republic of Korea forces during the regularly conducted Korean Marine Exchange Programs and Exercise Ssang Yong, which both demonstrate the continued dedication to the ROK-U.S. relationship and contribute to the security and stability on the Korean Peninsula, as well as the Asia-Pacific region.
Perhaps nowhere was the importance of bilateral training, knowledge-sharing and partner-enabling more vital than the Republic of the Philippines in 2013.
The lessons learned during Exercise Balikatan in April and Amphibious Landing Exercise in September prepared both U.S. Marines and the Armed Forces of the Philippines for the rapid response immediately following the tragic events associated with Typhoon Haiyan’s historic landfall.
The relationships formed between the two nations’ militaries throughout 2013 and the mutual understanding of standard operating procedures and capabilities allowed for the necessary level of support to be provided by Marines to affected areas; saving lives and reducing suffering in the process.
The success of Operation Damayan epitomized the active role the Marine Corps has played in the region long before the start of the 2013 pivot to the Pacific. The response and relief efforts carried out by the Marines of III MEF and MCIPAC defined the expeditionary role of the Marine Corps in the Asia-Pacific region to the world.
The unwavering commitment to maintaining standards, from the smallest units to their larger commands during periods of relative calm, resulted in a fully capable response force during a partner nation’s time of need.
This year, III MEF and MCIPAC maintained the high level of professionalism demanded of a forward-deployed force during unit-level training, numerous regional exercises, community involvement events and Operations Enduring Freedom and Damayan, representing the best the U.S. military has to offer in the Asia-Pacific region.