Okinawa – About 90 U.S. Marines and sailors are on the ground in the Philippines providing humanitarian assistance and disaster support in the wake of one of the most devastating typhoons on record.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel directed U.S. Pacific Command to provide manpower and assets at the request of the Philippines government following Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the Philippines Nov. 8.
Members of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade deployed yesterday from Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Japan, with two KC-130J Hercules aircraft from 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, reported Marine Col. John M. Peck, the 3rd MEB chief of staff.
A forward command element and humanitarian assistance survey team also is deploying to the Philippines from Okinawa to provide an initial assessment on the support required. Marine Brig. Gen. Paul Kennedy, deputy commander of III Marine Expeditionary Force and the commanding general of the 3rd MEB, will lead that team.
The initial focus of U.S. relief efforts includes surface and airborne maritime search and rescue, medium-heavy helicopter lift support, fixed-wing lift support and logistics enablers.
This includes requests for the Marine Corps’ KC-130 cargo aircraft and MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft. The MV-22 provides a unique capability and is ideal in this type of operation, officials noted. With its vertical takeoff and landing capabilities, it can operate in austere environments. Its ability to convert quickly to fixed-wing configuration gives it greatly increased speed and range over traditional rotary wing aircraft, they said.
Super Typhoon Haiyan has impacted more than 4.2 million people across 36 provinces in the Philippines, according to the Philippine government’s national disaster risk reduction and management council. More details about casualties and damage are expected in the coming days as transportation and communications systems are repaired.
Since 1990, the U.S. government has responded to more than 40 disasters in the Philippines at the request of that country’s government, ranging from volcanic eruptions to drought and population displacement.