Amphibious Ready Group Responds to Philippines Landslide
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 18, 2006 Sailors and Marines from the Forward Deployed Amphibious Ready Group and elements of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade were called upon yesterday to help the victims of a mudslide on southern Leyte Island in the Philippines, U.S. 7th Fleet officials reported.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Eddie Garcia, an operations specialist, stands watch on the signal bridge aboard USS Essex. Essex transited the waters surrounding Verde Island en route to the Philippine Island of Leyte along with USS Harpers Ferry on their way to support humanitarian relief efforts for victims of a devastating landslide there. Both ships are part of the Forward Deployed Amphibious Ready Group, the Navy's only forward-deployed amphibious force, out of Sasebo, Japan. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class James Evans Coyle
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
USS Essex, USS Harpers Ferry and elements of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade immediately left port Subic Bay en route to the disaster zone area.
"Our primary mission is to provide as much assistance as possible to the victims of this tragic event," said Capt. Mark E. Donahue, commodore, Amphibious Squadron 11, the task group commander of the Forward Deployed ARG. "We are here to prevent the further loss of life and to mitigate any further suffering."
Continuous days of heavy rain and flooding hit Leyte Island, about 420 miles southeast of Manila, and led to the landslide, which has washed away the farming village of Guinsahugon as well as two other villages.
The United States has authorized the Philippine Red Cross to use about $50,000 of emergency relief funds already granted to the Red Cross from an earlier disaster to aid in this disaster.
The Philippine Red Cross has asked the United States for helicopter support to assist with rescue and relief operations in the area.
Just as in Operation Unified Assistance, a multi-nation effort to help victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami, the ships of the Forward Deployed ARG will use various ship-to-shore assets to get landslide victims the assistance they need in the form of food, water and medical supplies, officials said. During the tsunami operation, USS Essex and USS Fort McHenry delivered about 6 million pounds of relief supplies.
Fort McHenry also provided humanitarian assistance after a series of early December 2004 typhoons and tropical storms caused massive flooding and landslides on the island of Luzon. During that humanitarian assistance effort, Fort McHenry delivered 30,000 pounds of supplies and helped treat 100 patients, according to U.S. Embassy officials in the Philippines.
USS Essex, USS Harpers Ferry and elements of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade arrived in the Philippines yesterday to conduct Exercise Balikatan 2006, an annual Philippines-U.S. bilateral combined exercise, which was scheduled Feb. 20 through March 5. The purpose of the exercise is to further develop the Philippines military's crisis action planning, enhancing its ability to effectively conduct counterterrorism operations, and promote interoperability. Also emphasized in the training events will be cooperation and execution of humanitarian and civic assistance, officials said.
"The strong partnership and professional ties between the Philippines and U. S. military will be instrumental in providing rapid and valuable relief assistance," said Donahue. "We are fortunate to be at the right place to help our friends and their families in their time of need."
The Forward Deployed ARG is part of Task Force 76, the Navy's only forward-deployed amphibious force, which has its headquarters at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan, with an operating detachment in Sasebo, Japan.
(From a Task Force 76 public affairs news release.)