DISASTER RELIEF: Typhoon Assistance from International Militaries
U.S. Scaling Back
Nearly three weeks after first responding to the typhoon that ravaged the central Philippines, U.S. Marines are reducing their presence in the disaster zone as the need for their unique skills decrease, officials say. Priorities are shifting from emergency relief to long term recovery operations.
The area in and around Tacloban City on the island of Leyte was destroyed November 8 when Typhoon Haiyan (also known as Typhoon Yolanda) struck the area, packing winds reaching over 200 mile per hour. The island of Samar was also hard hit by the super storm. More than 5,000 people died during and after the storm, according to CNN.. Thousands more were injured and more than 1 million people were left homeless.
The first U.S. military assistance arrived on November 10 with two KC-130J Super Hercules tanker/transport aircraft carrying about 80 Marines from the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade (3rd MEB). The Marines’ MV-22 helicopter/fixed wing hybrid has also been flying relief missions in the Philippines as well as MH-60s Seahawks helos and Navy P-3C maritime surveillance and Air Force C-130 Globemaster heavy lift transport airplanes.
The were quickly joined by an eight vessel strike force headed by the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73). The task force includes two guided missile cruisers, two guided missile destroyers and a dry cargo transport ship. On November 22, two amphibious dock landing ships – the USS Ashland and the USS Germantown – replaced the aircraft carrier and its 21 helicopters which delivered relief supplies including food and bottled water to devastated areas of the Philippines.
The Air Force has also been flying its large surveillance drone, the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk over the Philippines disaster area, to help relief workers plan helicopter landing zones and check the status of storm damaged roads and bridges, according to Maj. Ryan Simms, chief of remotely piloted aircraft policy at Air Force headquarters Executive Action Group. The high flying drone has completed three missions, supplying 50 hours’ worth of images, he told a session on non-military uses of unmanned aircraft at the Stimson Center, a Washington think tank.
The Ashland and Germantown each carry landing craft for moving large amounts of cargo and equipment ashore. The 900 Marines aboard the two workhorse ships bring heavy equipment which can clear debris.
Joint Task Force 505 (JTF 505) was created by U.S. Pacific Command on November 13 to conduct humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations in support of the Philippine government and its armed forces.
At its height, JTF 505 included nearly 850 personnel on the ground and an additional 6,200 in the George Washington Strike Group. An additional 1,000 Marines and sailors with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) also were sent to aid the Philippines. Personnel and equipment from the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps have come from Hawaii, Okinawa, Japan and the continental United States, according to the Defense Department.
The British aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious is also in the Philippines carrying about 500 tons of aid supplies and seven helicopters to deliver them, Sky News reports. Sailors from the HMS Darling supplied fresh water and other relief aid to starving, homeless villagers on remote islands, the Telegraph reported. Japan has sent three naval warships and more than 1,000 personnel to the Philippines on a relief mission, according to the website Euronews.
And Canada has sent a 200 member Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART), including Canadian soldiers, three CH-146 Griffon helicopters and a water purification system that can produce 50,000 liters of pure water a day, reported Canadian Press via the Huffington Post.
U.S. humanitarian assistance — especially from the U.S. military — has been a goodwill bonus to America, which has seen its popularity battered internationally because of controversial drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen and meta data collection by the National Security Agency. By contrast, China — which at first donated only $100,000 in assistance — suffered a public relations black eye in world opinion. Beijing scrambled to improve its reputation by increasing its aid donation to $1.6 billion and sending a hospital ship, the 300-bed Peace Ark to Philippine waters, the BBC reported.
Like many of its neighbors around the South China Sea, the Philippine government has been in a bitter territorial dispute with China.
Entry filed under: Aircraft, Asia-Pacific, Disaster Relief, National Security and Defense, Technology, Unconventional Warfare, Unmanned Aircraft, Weaponry and Equipment. Tags: Canada, China, Disaster Relief, Marine Corps, military aviation, Philippines typhoon, soft power.