31st MEU elements arrive near Tacloban, Philippines
PHILIPPINES, Nov. 20, 2013 – About 900 Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit have arrived in the Philippines, near Tacloban.
The Marines were transported to the Philippines from Okinawa aboard two Navy amphibious ships, the USS Germantown and USS Ashland. About 100 additional 31st MEU Marines were scheduled to fly to the region.
Navy Cmdr. William Marks, 7th Fleet spokesperson, provided an update on Operation Damayan, the U.S. and international effort to provide relief to people impacted by Super Typhoon Haiyan.
“We continue to see encouraging signs that ground routes are opening significantly for delivery by trucks instead of helicopters,” Marks said in a statement. “Ground transportation is much more efficient and can transport a greater load of supplies over the long term.
“Over the first few days during our initial emergency response,” he continued, “a vast majority of transport was carried via helicopter, while now we see almost 90 percent of relief supplies going by truck.”
About 135 flight hours were flown Nov. 19, for 792 hours flown total during the operation so far, according to the 7th Fleet. The amount of water delivered Nov. 19 is still being calculated. About 22,000 pounds of food, medical supplies and dry goods were delivered Nov. 19, for a total of 345,000 pounds. One hundred forty seven passengers were transported Nov. 19, for a total of 889 passengers transported so far.
“We are concentrating a majority of our remaining efforts in Samar/Guiuan, which continues to be the hub for supply transport,” Marks stated. “We are flying a number of missions to transport Republic of Philippine police, military and emergency personnel but a majority of supplies are now being carried by truck.”
South of Tacloban in the Leyte Gulf/Tacloban area “we are focusing about 35 percent of our efforts,” Marks stated. In Ormoc Bay almost all of the roads are back open, he added, and supplies are being carried by truck.
“Helicopter transport has not been needed to a great extent there,” Marks stated.
The littoral combat ship USS Freedom is en route to deliver supplies to support Operation Damayan. The USS Freedom has one helicopter onboard.
All U.S. Navy-provided support for Operation Damayan is part of the broader U.S. government effort to support the Philippines’ request for humanitarian assistance.
The USS Germantown and USS Ashland also bring heavy engineering equipment such as backhoes, dump trucks and wreckers, amphibious assault vehicles, generators, and portable water tanks.
MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and aircrews from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 assigned to the 31st MEU are flying missions in support of Operation Damayan.
The 31st MEU Marines will assist with road clearance and with distribution of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief supplies as needed. They’ll also aid relief efforts ashore throughout the emergency phase of operations.