U.S. Navy Amphibious Units Assume Lead Role in Operation Damayan 
By U.S. 7th Fleet Public Affairs 
Tacloban, Philippines - With the arrival of USS Ashland and USS Germantown, and with significant progress seen in international relief efforts in the Philippines, JTF 505 announced the amphibious units will relieve USS George Washington (CVN 73) Nov 21.

Ashland and Germantown’s unique capabilities, including shallow drafts, dozens of maneuverable small craft and vehicles, and the capability to refuel helicopters from all services, allow them to assume the role as the primary at-sea afloat assets in support of Operation Damayan. The transition demonstrates the commitment of the US and the international community to continuing support of the relief efforts.

“We will maintain an enduring presence in support of our Philippine ally for as long as our assistance is required,” said Vice Admiral Robert Thomas, Commander of the U.S. Seventh Fleet.

Since arriving Nov. 14, USS George Washington worked closely with the Guiuan mayor's office and Philippine army and navy to identify areas that need help and to carry out missions and paved the way for the long-term relief effort to succeed."

U. S. naval forces were dispatched almost immediately to the area from the port of Hong Kong or diverted from other operations to the Philippines, providing the immediate response most needed in the first few days.

"On the first day, roads were blocked, electricity was not usable and people were scattered," said Philippine navy Rear Adm. Jaime Bernadino, vice commander Philippine Navy. "It was easy to identify that the most practical way to reach places that needed help was by helicopter. The places that have not yet been reached are promptly being addressed by our friends in the U.S. Navy," said Bernadino. "The help from the U.S. Navy is extremely beneficial."

In coordination with the Government and Armed Forces of the Philippines, U.S. Navy helicopter operations moved hundreds of tons of supplies from Guiuan, Tacloban, and Ormoc to the remote areas that even trucks could not reach. In addition, U.S. Navy P-3 Orion aircraft flew over remote locations, finding those in distress and vectoring needed aid from the ground to their locations. USNS Bowditch also completed numerous surveys of hazardous areas to ensure the safety of personnel and transport vessels.

The George Washington crew was also praised by the U.S. embassy for their efforts. "The George Washington Strike Group’s ships and aircraft were some of the first U.S. units on the scene, providing more than 335,000 liters of water and 36,360 kilos of food and supplies in support of Government of the Philippines relief efforts in the first few days after the typhoon. With major supply routes now open, aid can be safely and effectively delivered via land, air and sea routes by the Philippine government, NGOs, the United States, and other international partners,” said Chargé d'Affaires Brian L. Goldbeck.

Rear Admiral Hugh Wetherald will assume duty as the Navy's on-scene maritime commander, relieving Rear Admiral Mark Montgomery.
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