Task force for Philippine typhoon relief effort shut down
SEOUL — The U.S. Pacific Command has shut down the task force it set up two weeks ago to assist in relief efforts following Typhoon Haiyan, the storm that killed thousands in the Philippines.
Joint Task Force 505 ended its mission Sunday “now that the unique capabilities of the U.S. military are no longer required,” its headquarters at Camp Aguinaldo in Manila said in a statement.
A small contingent is still in the Philippines to oversee the pullout of the task force’s remaining elements. As of last week, about 1,100 U.S. troops were on the ground and about 1,900 were on ships in support of Operation Damayan. At their peak, the relief efforts involved more than 13,400 U.S. military personnel, 66 aircraft and 12 naval vessels. American troops ran airfields, purified water, distributed aid and evacuated more than 21,000 people after one of the most powerful storms to ever make landfall battered the country’s midsection Nov. 8.
U.S. fixed-wing and tilt-rotor aircraft were crucial in providing access to remote or inaccessible areas.
The U.S. military conducted more than 1,300 flights and delivered more than 2,495 tons of supplies. As road conditions improved, responsibility for relief efforts gradually passed to the Philippine military and international aid organizations, including the U.S. Agency for International Development.
The 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade from Okinawa provided the initial U.S. military response to the disaster, which reduced much of the coastal city of Tacloban and other parts of Leyte province to rubble. The USS George Washington aircraft carrier, and later the amphibious ships the USS Ashland and the USS Germantown, were sent to the crisis areas.
In an interview last week at Camp Aguinaldo, the Joint Task Force 505 deputy commander for transition said the U.S. operation had run smoothly.
“I’ve served in the Army for 27 years, and I’ve done operations around the world and I don’t think that we could have done it differently or better,” said Brig. Gen. Kurt J. Ryan, commander of the 593D Sustainment Command at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington.