Okinawa sailor returns to help the Philippines
VILLAMOR AIR BASE, Philippines, Nov. 21, 2013 – U.S. service members are contributing their unique capabilities in support of the armed forces of the Philippines during Operation Damayan to assist the millions of people affected by Typhoon Haiyan, which struck Nov. 7 with destructive winds gusting up to an estimated 230 mph.
A handful of U.S. service members taking part in Operation Damayan were born in the Philippines and were raised there for part of their lives -- a place they call home.
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Eduardo M. Jimenez Jr., is the deputy medical planner for the 3rd Marine Logistic Group on Okinawa. Jimenez currently is assigned to 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade in support of Joint Task Force 505, which is coordinating Operation Damayan relief activities. Jimenez is originally from Pasay City, located just south of Manila, the capital of the Philippines, where he lived until he was 19.
On Nov. 27, 1984, Jimenez enlisted in the U.S. Navy through the Philippine enlistment program at Subic Bay.
“Roughly 300 to 400 people would come in each time to take the screening test, and by the end of the day there would be about five to 12 that were selected to be sent to boot camp in the U.S.,” Jimenez said. “It was quite a culture shock for me when I went to the U.S. because Filipinos are always really close to their family. I was the first from my family to be away for an extended timeframe.”
Prior to his enlisting, Jimenez was a student at the University of the East, in Manila. Jimenez continued his studies and has earned a master’s degree in organizational leadership and human resources from Southern Illinois University.
“It took me almost ten years to get my degree because I was always on the ships. I had to go to classes during weekends or at nights,” Jimenez said.
Jimenez served in the Navy for 14 years as a corpsman and independent-duty corpsman, achieving the rank of Senior Chief Petty Officer before becoming a commissioned officer in December 1999.
“I was concerned they weren’t going to send me [to the Philippines] because I am not originally with 3rd MEB,” Jimenez said. “A friend of mine asked me to fill in for him because he was going home and I was more than willing to. I have been doing planning for the medical piece out here; making sure we have the equipment and personnel we need and making sure we know of a nearby hospital we can go to if we need to.”
Any support the U.S. military provides is part of the broader U.S. government effort to support the government of the Philippines’ request for humanitarian assistance. This is a joint team effort that includes coordination by the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development, in consultation with Philippine authorities.
“I have been working with him for a little over a week now and he is a very hard worker,” Navy hospital corpsman Petty Officer 3rd Class Eugene K. Capuli, who is from Marysville, Wash., said of Jimenez.
Jimenez “has a lot on his plate but he does what’s needed to get the job done,” said Capuli, who is with the III Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, currently assigned to 3rd MEB in support of JTF-505.
“He is pulling his weight out here,” Capuli said of Jimenez. “It is a team effort and we should all do our part.”
Having the opportunity to be involved in Operation Damayan means a great deal to Jimenez because the typhoon affected the nation he called home.
“I am fortunate to meet such a hard worker to model myself off of,” Capuli said. “He is trying to do anything he can to help out.”
The U.S. military has a history of successfully working with international relief organizations and host nations to provide aid to people impacted by natural disasters.
“This is my third time working with him, and I find it [beneficial] to work with him because he is an easy-going guy and he doesn’t get too worked-up about everything,” Navy Lt. Ryan J. Aylsworth said of Jimenez.
Aylsworth is from Stuart, Fla., and is an entomologist with 3rd Medical Battalion currently assigned to 3rd MEB as a medical planner in support of JTF-505.
Jimenez, Aylsworth said, “has a lot of experience from both the Navy and Marine Corps, and he brings a wealth of knowledge to the table because he was prior enlisted and has been in the service for a long time.”
“This is the worst typhoon I have ever seen,” Jimenez said. “I have never seen this much devastation before. It is heart-breaking to see the news on some days; I wish there was more I could do.”
At least three to four times a year the U.S. military is in the Philippines for different training exercises, and Jimenez makes a point of visiting because of the love he has for his home country.
“I still have tons of relatives living here that come to visit me during my-off time at the hotel,” Jimenez said. “I try to visit my family here every Christmas because it is the most festive holiday in the Philippines.”