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1-star downplays violence in Philippines, won't call on Marine infantrymen for security

Nov. 15, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
BESTPIX Humanitarian Efforts Continue Following De
Zosimo Moabando sits with his young grandson Kyle on the roof of their damaged house in the devastated town of Tanuan, south of Tacloban, on Friday in the Philippines. Brig. Gen. Paul Kennedy says reports of looting in the devastated country have been overblown. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)
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The Marine general overseeing the Corps’ efforts in the Philippines said there have been no major incidents of looting or violence, and no infantrymen have been called up to provide security, despite reports of growing unrest in the country devastated by last week’s typhoon.

Brig. Gen. Paul Kennedy, the commanding general of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, said some of the reports out of the Philippines about widespread hijackings, looting and gunfire have been overblown. They haven’t run into any incidents involving mobs, he said, and the Philippine government hasn’t called on the U.S. military to provide any sort of security detail.

“I’m not seeing it,” he told Marine Corps Times. “If I saw it ... then the Filipino people would be asking perhaps for some security, but they’re handling it.”

Kennedy said while they’re might be isolated incidents of looting happening, it’s not widespread. He said spoke to the division commander of the Philippine national police, and he told him widespread looting wasn’t a problem.

He also acknowledged that in a disaster situation where people are looking for food and water, the defining looting becomes more difficult.

“If people are starving and they break into a warehouse, you need to determine whether that’s looting or need,” he said. “If they’re carrying off flat-screen televisions, then obviously they’re stealing.”

The Philippine military and police forces are intact and able to handle it, he said. And since the efforts Marines are conducting revolve around moving aircraft and equipment, Kennedy said he hasn’t requested any infantrymen. In fact, when pulling together the 1,000 Marines that will be joining the efforts from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, they chose to swap infantry Marines for those in the combat logistics community, he said.

“This is primarily an aviation and logistics effort,” he said. “It’s going to be a little bit different task organization that what people are used to seeing.”

Nearly 1,500 Marines have now been called up to assist with Operation Damayan, which is Tagalog for “help in the time of need.”

About 900 members of the 31st MEU, will board Navy ships bound for the Philippines in coming days. They’ll bring along dump trucks, Amphibious Assault Vehicles, generators and portable water tanks, according to a Marine Corps news release. They’ll leave the ships aboard small boats, helicopters and amphibious ship-to-shore vehicles

About 100 additional members of the MEU will fly over on MV-22B Ospreys assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265. That will double the amount of Ospreys there, which officials say have been instrumental in carrying out the relief efforts.

The members of the MEU will join about 400 Marines already on the ground. The Marines been staying in tents at Tacloban air field, barracks at Clark Air Base or hotels in Manila, Kennedy said.

Within days, the Marines established three main hubs. They’re working out of Tacloban, Ormoc and Guiuan, Kennedy said.

Supplies are delivered to those three hubs via KC-130J Hercules, and Marines load Ospreys to deliver them to places that are hard to reach. The first eight Ospreys to reach the Philippines were assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 262 and the Hercules to Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152.

“The Ospreys have been the critical link between taking the supplies off the tarmac at Tacloban and getting them out to remote sites,” Kennedy said. “[We] deliver humanitarian assistance supplies. Then when we get to one of those sites, we back-load it with people with medical priorities and take them back to Tacloban, where they get on a fixed wing and fly out.”

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