A view from an MH-60 helicopter assigned to the Golden Falcons of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 12 as it prepares to land Nov. 20 to pick up more relief supplies for victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. (Mike Morones/Staff)
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The U.S. effort for Operation Damayan could wrap up as early as Sunday, said Marine Corps Lt. Gen. John Wissler, commanding officer of the task force overseeing disaster relief.
Thousands of sailors deployed to the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, which struck Nov. 8, taking thousands of lives, displacing tens of thousands more people and causing billions of dollars in damage to property and infrastructure.
Three days later after the typhoon hit, the carrier George Washington, cruisers Cowpens and Antietam, and destroyer Mustin headed to assist.
Sailors delivered hundreds of thousands of pounds of food, water and medical supplies while transporting hundreds of refugees in more than 21 helicopters deployed for the effort.
As of Wednesday, these ships are on station, according to a Pacific Fleet spokesman:
■ Cruiser Cowpens
■ Dock landing ships Germantown and Ashland
■ Dry cargo ship Richard E. Byrd
Small teams from Navy Facilities Command and Navy Environmental and Preventive Medicine Unit 6 are also on the ground, for a total of 20 personnel, Cmdr. Steve Curry said.
The following ships also served during Damayan, which in Tagalog translates to “help in the time of need:”
■ Carrier George Washington
■ Destroyers Lassen and Mustin
■ Cruiser Antietam
■ Littoral combat ship Freedom
■ Oceanographic survey ship Bowditch
■ Dry cargo ship Charles Drew
■ Submarine tender Emory S. Land
■ Underway replenishment oiler Yukon
The George Washington, Antietam, Lassen and Mustin left the Philippines earlier this week, moving on to Annual Exercise 13 with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force in the waters around that country.
The joint exercise is designed to help both Japan and the U.S. evaluate their air, surface and subsurface defense readiness and interoperability in the defense of Japan.
Though the San Diego-based hospital ship Mercy had been activated to deploy to the Philippines last week, the ship will no longer head to the Pacific
Mercy returned to reduced operating status Monday, per a decision by its commander, Adm. Harry Harris.
“Our decision to make Mercy fully ready to deploy and now back to reduced operating status had nothing to do with any other country, except for responding to the needs of our Filipino allies,” Curry said. “The medical situation in the Philippines has dramatically improved over the last two weeks, with numerous U.S. and international care providers currently operating in impacted areas.”