MANILA, Philippines --
The image most have of the military centers around strength and winning battles. The military, however, and specifically the 3d Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB), boasts some very impressive abilities during a humanitarian crisis.
During Philippine Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX) 33, the Joint Humanitarian Assistance Survey Team (JHAST), the command team and leader for the United States military response during times of crisis, organized and flew on MV-22 Ospreys from Okinawa, Japan, to Manila, Philippines, to exercise their ability to work together as a team. Once in the Philippines, the team went to work with members of the Philippine Marine Corps to walk through what steps are needed to support relief requirements during a real-world situation.
“The JHAST works with the affected country, the Department of State, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) to frame how specific military capabilities can be used to assist in a crisis. In recent years we have activated the JHAST during exercise Balikatan in the Philippines as a drill, but actually used those capabilities to support large scale relief operations during Super Typhoon Yolanda here in 2013,” said Col. Mike Wylie, the operations-officer for the 3d MEB and member of the JHAST.
“Once it was determined that assistance was needed after the storm, within four hours Ospreys from Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa arrived to support the Government of the Philippines’ disaster relief operations. The unique ability of the MV-22s allowed them to evacuate more than 1,200 people while delivering over 20 tons of supplies.”
The mission to deploy the JHAST comes from the MEB’s higher headquarters at U.S. Pacific Command, which flows to Marine Forces Pacific and III Marine Expeditionary Force who tasks the MEB to go to the disaster and begin organizing support.
The team is made up mostly of MEB Marines and Sailors, with expertise in operations, planning, logistics and law to name a few. The team has an OFDA representative and additional enablers from the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force to help synchronize each service’s unique inventory.
“Being able to demonstrate the United States’ desire to provide assets and manpower to a nation in need is truly incredible. The helping hand of the military, rarely showcased, is one of the most powerful and life changing capabilities we have in our arsenal,” Wylie said.
In the last decade, the United States has provided military forces to aid the Philippines in relief operations seven times.