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GW and cruisers arrive in Philippines, mission tasking begins

Nov. 14, 2013 - 07:38PM   |  
Sailors observe flight operations on the flight deck the carrier George Washington. The George Washington and cruisers Antietam and Cowpens have reached the Philippines, and sailors are preparing to assess damage and distribute medical support and supplies.
Sailors observe flight operations on the flight deck the carrier George Washington. The George Washington and cruisers Antietam and Cowpens have reached the Philippines, and sailors are preparing to assess damage and distribute medical support and supplies. (Navy)
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The aircraft carrier George Washington and cruisers Antietam and Cowpens have reached the Philippines, and sailors are preparing to assess damage and distribute medical support and supplies.

The ships are positioned off the coast of Samar Island in the eastern part of the island country, the Navy reported.

The George Washington Carrier Strike Group plans to maximize use of its helos for Operation Damayan. To do so, strike group commander Rear Adm. Mark Montgomery ordered “a number” of fixed-wing aircraft to Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan, in order to make more room on the flight deck, the Navy stated in a news release.

“One of the best capabilities the strike group brings is our 21 helicopters,” Montgomery said in a statement. “These helicopters represent a good deal of lift to move emergency supplies around.”

The government of the Philippines requested relief from the U.S. after what is believed to be one of the worst storms in that country’s history, Typhoon Haiyan. The Marine Corps estimates 4.2 million people have been affected. The death toll has reportedly reached 2,275.

That figure is expected to rise, perhaps significantly, when accurate information is collected from the entire disaster zone, which spreads over a wide swath of the eastern and central Philippines.

Other Navy ships and assets participating in Damayan, which in Tagalog means “help in the time of need”:

■ The destroyer Lassen and cargo ship Charles Drew are using helos to provide emergency supplies into Tacloban in the central Philippines. The submarine tender Emory S. Land is also providing aid in this area.

■ The destroyer Mustin in heading to Ormoc.

■ The survey ship Bowditch aid is conducting survey operations in Leyte Gulf and San Pedro Bay.

■ The amphibious dock landing ships Germantown and Ashland are heading to Okinawa to load up Marines and supplies before heading to the Philippines.

■ Two P-3 Orion aircraft from Jacksonville, Fla.-based Patrol Squadron 26 are conducting sea surveillance and recon.

■ Early Navy reports said the destroyer McCampbell would also participate, but its mission tasking was unclear.

On Wednesday, U.S. Pacific Command established a joint task force to lead the mission, headed by Lt. Gen. John Wissler, commanding general of III Marine Expeditionary Force on Okinawa. In addition to Marines, members of the U.S. Agency for International Development and Defense Department are on the ground assisting relief work.

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