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Mission successful for Joint Task Force-535

Marine Corps News

Story Identification #: 2004122202047
Story by Lance Cpl. Joel Abshier

OKINAWA, Japan — (Dec. 21, 2004) -- More than 600 Marines, sailors, airmen and soldiers with Joint Task Force-535, most from the Okinawa, Japan-based 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, returned here Dec. 17-20, after providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief for people who were affected by severe storms in the Philippines.

Successive tropical storms killed more than 650 Filipinos, left more than 400 missing and displaced 168,000 local residents since Dec. 3, according to Lt. Col. Gregory F. Bond, operations officer for JTF–535.

The Philippine government requested aid from the U.S. to assist towns that were the most devastated, according to Bond. Due to the close proximity of 3rd MEB, the first wave of servicemembers arrived within 48 hours.

Food, water, tents, blankets and medical supplies were carried by air in military helicopters such as the CH-46E, CH-53D and H-60 Black Hawk because the land was inaccessible to all types of ground vehicles, according to Maj. Arnold Constantino, a search and rescue pilot with the Philippine Air Force.

“A bridge that connects these villages to supply areas was destroyed during the typhoon,” Constantino said. “I couldn’t put a word on how to describe the situation. The crops were all damaged and the land was (incapable of being) tilled. The people are relying on relief goods from the outside to be given to them.”

Within seven days, more than 519,700 pounds of supplies were delivered to the towns of General Nakar, Infanta, Baler and Real in the Quezon Province, according to Bond.

The average amount of supplies delivered exceeded 75,000 pounds each day, according to Bond.
“We needed to get the supplies in and we would not have been able to do that without the U.S. forces using the big choppers,” Constantino said. “We are all grateful for the quick reaction the U.S. did in helping the people here.”

The reality of the devastation here opened the eyes of many servicemembers who have never been involved in a real-world operation, according to Lance Cpl. William J. Clarke, a supply and logistics support specialist with JTF-535.

“Hearing and seeing what goes on in the world on (television) is a lot different than actually seeing it first hand,” Clarke said. “It feels a lot better to wear (the uniform) when you are helping people out in the world. (Providing support to the Philippine) people really makes me
feel like I am a Marine.”

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