III MEF Marines conclude relief efforts in the Philippines
Relief efforts were conducted at the request of the government of the Republic of the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Pablo, international typhoon name Bopha, which made landfall Dec. 4th. The III Marine Expeditionary Force Forward Command Element, which consisted of Marines with the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, established the bilateral coordination center, which provided command and control for U.S. Marine relief efforts and coordinated requests for support with the government and Armed Forces of the Philippines, U.S. Embassy and Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, part of the U.S. Agency for International Development.
“The Marines did an absolute great job in eight days moving 750,000 pounds of relief supplies by conducting 22 sorties, which enabled a lot of support in a short amount of time and really helped those affected in the Philippines,” said Col. Mark J. Menotti, officer in charge for the III MEF FCE. “The U.S. service members and USAID personnel on the ground in Mindanao in the sourthern Philippines, working alongside Philippine service members, were able to receive and distribute supplies that the forward command element had sent the same day. The quick turnaround was due heavily to our pre-established reletionships and familiarization working together twice a year during every Phiblex and Balikatan, which made the process seamless in getting relief supplies out to where they were needed.”
The bilateral coordination center also consisted of personnel with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Pacific Air Forces, OFDA, Joint-U.S. Military Assistance Group-Philippines and Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines. The center enabled prioritization of effort and synchronized humanitarian assistance and relief efforts, resulting in more efficient coordination and operations.
Marine Corps KC-130J Hercules aircraft with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152, Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force, arrived Dec. 8 to begin relief operations. The squadron surpassed more than 110 flight hours Dec. 9-16 and delivered more than 750,000 pounds of relief supplies consisting of family ration packs, relief aid boxes containing personal hygiene items and clothing, high-energy biscuits, rice, generators, mosquito nets, blankets, sleeping mats, tents and liquid containers.
“This relief effort highlighted the range of military operations that III MEF can conduct in a short amount of time with the flexibility of our operational task-force. Within seven hours of being told to execute, we had the KC-130Js on the deck in Manila, and flew the first relief mission less than 24 hours after being tasked,” said Menotti.
The relief effort included one water purification unit transported from Marine Corps Forces Pacific which has been producing 5,500 gallons of water per hour for 8 hours each day, four water purification specialists, three personnel from USAID and the Philippine Department of Social Welfare and Development, and a United Nation’s World Food Programme relief module and three of their tents.
VMGR-152’s aircraft and personnel daily transported relief supplies from Villamor Air Base in Manila to Davao International Airport in Mindanao. Upon landing at Davao, Philippine service members worked hard alongside U.S. Marines to unload supplies as quickly as possible onto awaiting trucks. The supplies were then distributed by Philippine government and nongovernmental organizations to displaced families affected by the typhoon as directed by the Philippine Department of Social Welfare and Development and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
U.S. service members with JSOTF-P and USAID OFDA representatives remain in Mindanao supporting relief efforts as requested by the Philippine Government.