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U.S. Military to aid typhoon-devastated Philippines

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel directed U.S. Pacific Command yesterday to support U.S. government humanitarian relief operations in the Philippines in the wake of a deadly typhoon that has left more than 1,000 dead, defense officials announced yesterday.

The support, provided at the request of the Philippines government, will initially focus on surface maritime search and rescue, medium-heavy helicopter lift support, airborne maritime SAR, fixed-wing lift support and logistics enablers, officials said.

The Defense Department is working in coordination with the U.S. Agency for International Development and U.S. ambassador in Manila, they said, and will continue to monitor the effects of Typhoon Haiyan while standing ready to help the Philippines recover from the monster storm.

Super Typhoon Haiyan hammered six central islands Nov. 8, devastating the city of Tacloban and leaving a huge storm surge and widespread flooding in its wake.

Secretary of State John Kerry immediately offered assurance of U.S support, and Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told reporters that day the U.S. military was prepared to respond, if requested.

Little noted that U.S. forces frequently provide direct relief and recovery support during and after natural disasters.

Nowhere in the world are natural disasters as prevalent as in the Asia-Pacific region. It sits on the earthquake-prone "Ring of Fire" and is tormented by hurricanes, cyclones, tsunamis, floods and mudslides.

As part of its extensive regional engagement, PACOM works closely with regional nations to promote disaster preparedness and build resilience; and to respond quickly and effectively should disaster strike. One of the best ways to do that is through the exercise program, command officials said.

"It's the right thing to do," particularly in light of frequent and often devastating natural disasters that strike across the region, Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, the PACOM commander, told American Forces Press Service last week.

"Also, if something is going to happen in the Pacific that is going to create a churn in the security environment, the most likely thing will be a humanitarian disaster problem of some kind – whether it is horrific typhoons or tsunamis or floods or something else," Locklear said.

PACOM helps regional nations deal with such disasters regularly, Locklear reported. While sometimes that involves deploying forces to provide aid, he said the support is often in the form of advice and assistance, training, satellite imagery or intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support.

The Philippines is one of five U.S. allies in the Asia-Pacific region.

During his visit there in August, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel praised the "deep and unbreakable alliance" between the two countries, calling it "an anchor for peace and stability and prosperity in this region."

"Our close ties to the Philippines have been forged through a history of shared sacrifice and common purpose," he added, "and continuing to strengthen the close partnership between our nations is an important part of America's long-term strategy of rebalancing in the Asia-Pacific."

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