The Relief Aid Process and the US Military: Insert, Create Emergency Infrastructure and Transition Out


2013-11-27 The USMC was very visible with its Ospreys.  The USN became evident with the arrival of the USS Washington.  And for the USAF the arrival of the C-17s along with international partners like Canada flying airlift was a clearly visible actor in the relief effort.

What can be lost is an understanding of the process.

It is not just about showing up; it is about doing it rapidly and effectively.

And then departing when the job is done.

With the devastation associated with the Typhoon, disruption and discontinuity is a serious obstacle to overcome to provide relief and lay down the capabilities to begin the process of long term recovery.

The U.S. military provides significant tools which can allow for the rapid insertion of forces which can shape initial operating capabilities for the relief capabilities to follow.

In this case, the Ospreys were a new element which bought significant time by their ability to enter affected areas rapidly and directly.

The Marines also sent mobile air traffic control teams to a key impacted airport — Guiuan airfield — and were able to shape an ability to flow in supplies and move personnel.

The USAF sent its Crisis Response Group to Tacloban to rebuild the airport for emergency operations.

As these efforts succeeded, the USMC and USAF looked to return those tools and capabilities to their home bases.

With an emergency infrastructure in place, the ability to transition to other relief forces and capabilities had been created.

According to a Stars and Stripes article:

The U.S. military’s assistance for survivors of Typhoon Haiyan appears to be rapidly winding down as responsibility for relief efforts in a number of areas shifts to Philippine control.

The Philippine military assumed responsibility Sunday for coordinating all international maritime forces involved in aid operations, according to the U.S military, a day after it took over relief efforts at the Guiuan Airfield, a key hub for aid distribution.

At its peak, 13 U.S. ships and nearly 8,000 sailors and Marines took part in Operation Damayan following the Nov. 8 storm that left thousands dead or homeless. U.S. forces helped the Philippine military coordinate and move 430,000 liters of water and 211 tons of food and other supplies from ship to land.

Philippine Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Delgado, deputy commander of Joint Task Force Yolanda, thanked the U.S. for its “quick response from day one,” according to a U.S. statement.

“Indeed, it will be a lasting memory written in the minds of the Philippine people,” he said, crediting the relationship between the two governments as “a key enabler to the seamless integration of forces.”

The international response to the typhoon has shifted dramatically in the past week from emergency relief to long-term recovery as access to ports and roads rapidly improved and aid groups established a significant presence in hard-hit areas.

U.S. military operations are “shifting from relief execution to a focus on continued coordination with the government of the Philippines, non-governmental organizations and multinational aid organizations for as long as its distinctive capabilities are needed,” the statement said.

On Friday, Australian forces assumed responsibility from the U.S. for relief efforts in Ormoc, where as many as 90 percent of structures were damaged.

The Haribon Passenger Terminal in Clark’s Air Force City was quiet last week, but by Monday afternoon it was slowly coming to life as servicemembers began returning from Tacloban and other affected areas. Bags lined sidewalks, airmen washed down equipment returned from the disaster zone, and Marines perused Operation Damayan t-shirts for sale emblazoned with the slogan, “United As One.”

Many had worked marathon hours in difficult conditions, like Marine Staff Sgt. Eric Durbin, part of a mobile air traffic control team from Okinawa that spent roughly a week at the Guiuan airfield. He did 24-hour “shifts” during his first few days, catching naps when he could.

The video above is credited to American Forces Network Okinawa


For an overview on another context within which such an insert and withdraw capability is crucial see Ed Timperlake on the role of power projection forces in supporting U.S. obligations and interests when effecting a strategic withdrawal.