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Marines wind down efforts in Philippines

Nov. 30, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Operation Damayan MWM 20131118
Filipino survivors of Typhoon Haiyan arrive at Villamor Air Base in Manila after being evacuated from Guiuan by a KC-130 with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152 on Nov. 18. (Mike Morones/Staff)
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Marines have begun leaving the Philippines after deploying there to assist with relief efforts following deadly Typhoon Haiyan. Joint Task Force 505 could stand down as early as tomorrow.

Lt. Gen. John Wissler, commanding general of III Marine Expeditionary Force and JTF-505, made the recommendation they stand down as the relief mission transitions to a recovery phase, the Pentagon announced Nov. 26. The task force had been stood up eight days earlier.

Some elements of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, including its commanding officer, Brig. Gen. Paul Kennedy, as well as Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 262 have returned to Okinawa, said Navy Lt. Frederick Martin, a JTF-505 spokesman, on Nov. 27. Personnel with VMM-265, Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152 and the portion of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit that was sent to the area remain, he said.

In a Defense Department release, Kennedy said the Philippine government and military are intact and ready to take on the recovery stage after Marines and other U.S. and international forces helped during the initial relief mission.

U.S. forces have begun a measured transition, consolidating personnel and equipment out of typhoon-affected areas and preparing to send home those no longer required to support the Philippine government and armed forces. “We continue to collaborate with our Philippine partners and international assisting countries to prevent any loss of momentum in the relief effort, Martin said.

Philippine Army Col. Emmanuel Cacdac said they’re now able to reach all of the stricken areas, according to the release. That allows them to assess the risks and needs in those areas to which they now have access. With immediate needs met due to food and water deliveries, Filipinos are now in need of medicine and materials for shelter, he said.

Cacdac said they’re now using trucks to fulfill some of their missions. Reaching people in need by ground was one of the initial challenges following the typhoon, Kennedy said. Roads were blocked by uprooted trees, but the Philippine military was successful in clearing that quickly.

As of Wednesday, Marine Corps aircraft had transported 7,540 Philippine displaced persons, 538 U.S. citizens and 301 citizens from other countries. They moved 1,168 tons of relief supplies, and flew 650 sorties for a total of 869 flight hours, Martin said.

The plan for withdrawal of forces and any that will remain behind is yet to be determined, Martin said. Marines who remain will serve as reserve assets. The 900 members of the 31st MEU, who didn’t arrive until Nov. 20, brought with them dump trucks, amphibious assault vehicles, generators and portable water tanks.

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