Military Sealift Command and Operation Damayan

The following blog was written by Rear Adm. T.K. Shannon, commander, Military Sealift Command. In a nation of compassion, MSC is part of the Navy/Marine Corps arm that reaches out to those in need around the world. Operation Damayan, providing disaster relief to the people of the Republic of the Philippines is another in a long list of positive efforts our United States bring to the globe.

PHILIPPINE SEA (Nov. 18, 2013) A Puma helicopter departs the flight deck of   USNS Richard E. Byrd (T-AKE 4) during a vertical replenishment with USNS Charles Drew (T-AKE 10) in support of Operation Damayan. Charles Drew is with the George Washington Strike Group supporting the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade which is assisting the Philippine government’s ongoing relief efforts in the aftermath of the super typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda. (U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Class Brian H. Abel)

PHILIPPINE SEA (Nov. 18, 2013) A Puma helicopter departs the flight deck of USNS Richard E. Byrd (T-AKE 4) during a vertical replenishment with USNS Charles Drew (T-AKE 10) in support of Operation Damayan. Charles Drew is with the George Washington Strike Group supporting the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade which is assisting the Philippine government’s ongoing relief efforts in the aftermath of the super typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda. (U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Class Brian H. Abel)

When disaster strikes, our United States of America is always ready to extend a helping hand to those in need. Our Navy/Marine Corps team is the spearhead of U.S. relief efforts in the Philippines following the super typhoon that devastated so much of that maritime land, and where our Navy goes, so goes MSC.

It began with our oceanographic survey ship, USNS Bowditch, recently honored by the United Seamen’s Service for rescue actions involving a grounded Navy ship. Bowditch was first on the scene off the coast of Tacloban, Philippines, surveying the ocean bottom, looking for obstacles that had shifted and any new underwater formations formed by shifting bottom sands. The work done by our Bowditch crew made it safe for our USS George Washington Carrier Strike Group to move in to assist our 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade in Operation Damayan. Rear Adm. Mark Montgomery, commander of the strike group, praised Bowditch’s work and noted its contributions to the success of the operation.

Of course, any strike group needs supplies, and our dry cargo/ammunition ships, USNS Charles Drew and USNS Richard E. Byrd, were there, keeping the strike group functional and providing a constant supply of potable water for airlift to those shoreside locations that were in desperate need. Our fleet oilers, USNS Yukon and USNS Walter S. Diehl, provided fleet logistics to all the U.S. ships involved in the operation. Diehl also carried a humanitarian assistance/disaster relief kit onboard, including water makers and other needed equipment. 

Submarine tender USS Emory S. Land was also part of the on-station assets for Operation Damayan. The technical capabilities of the Sailors and CIVMARs aboard Emory S. Land provided the capability to assess the water treatment plant in Tacloban for needed repairs, to assist in cleanup at the airport and to make repairs to equipment at the airport and in the flight control tower.

USS Emory S. Land (AS 39) steams alongside USNS Charles Drew (T-AKE 10) during a fueling at sea in support of Operation Damayan.  (U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Brian H. Abel)

USS Emory S. Land (AS 39) steams alongside USNS Charles Drew (T-AKE 10) during a fueling at sea in support of Operation Damayan. (U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Brian H. Abel)

Back home in San Diego, our hospital ship, USNS Mercy, was activated and placed on standby pierside, in case the Philippine government and our U.S. State Department decided there was need to send her to the area.  With an aircraft carrier and two large-deck amphibious ships on scene, Mercy may not sail, but our amazing CIVMARs, logisticians and port engineer folks in San Diego had the ship ready in record time. Chief Engineer Lars Andres and his impressive engineering department had steam to the turbines only two days after the activation order was given. What an impressive display of professional marine engineering!

What heartens me is that no matter what the mission – combat force logistics, fleet service, DOD seaborne transport, humanitarian assistance or disaster response – our Navy’s MSC crews and ships are ready, on time, every time. I am honored to be part of our MSC family.

 Thanks for your service,

T.K. Shannon

Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy

Commander, Military Sealift Command

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