WASHINGTON - Countries around the world are responding to the Typhoon Haiyan-caused devastation in the Philippines, and aid is rushing to the island nation with the U.S. Navy leading the way.
The aircraft carrier USS George Washington and support vessels arrived in the Philippines Nov. 14, 2013, to aid humanitarian assistance efforts in response to Typhoon Haiyan. Pictured here, U.S. Navy Lt. Wayne Simonds inventories available medical supplies in the medical supply storage room of the USS George Washington in support on Operation Damayan, Nov. 13, 2013. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Liam Kennedy.
Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Navy's chief of information, discussed the U.S. military's humanitarian aid and disaster relief effort, dubbed Operation Damayan, during a discussion at the Defense One Summit here yesterday.
Kirby told Al Jazeera's Jamie Tarabay that the military is working in support of the U.S. Agency for International Development, which is leading the U.S. portion of the effort.
The aircraft carrier USS George Washington and three other U.S. vessels arrived in the Philippines yesterday, and sailors and Marines began delivering food, water and shelter to those affected by the storm. Philippine officials said that more than 4,000 people were killed by the storm, thousands more need medical attention, and millions are without the basics of life.
The Philippines is a U.S. treaty ally, Kirby said, noting that exercises and operations that U.S. and Philippine service members have conducted together in the past have aided the relief effort.
"[The Defense Department's] rebalance to the Pacific is all about partnerships and trying to find ways to better understand one another and operate together," Kirby said. "We've had a terrific relationship with the government of the Philippines for a very long time, ... but when you have an emergency like this, this is not the time to try to build a relationship. At a time like this, you want to leverage the relationship we've had for so long, and that's what we're seeing here."
About 300 U.S. Marines are currently on the ground aiding relief efforts in the Philippines today. Another 900 Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit based on the Japanese island of Okinawa are deploying aboard the USS Germantown and USS Ashland, and are expected to arrive in the Philippines next week.
Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft have been flying missions in the Philippines, and more of those aircraft are on the way.