Operation Damayan airlift operations intensify

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Jake Bailey
  • 374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Airmen from the 36th Airlift Squadron, launched 24-hour C-130 Hercules aircraft night operations in support of Operation Damayan Nov. 18. Night operations substantially multiply the joint airlift component here increase the flow of evacuation flights from Tacloban, Philippines, the region hit hardest by Typhoon Haiyan.

Five C-130 crews from Yokota Air Base, Japan, are conducting multiple nighttime sorties that each carry up to 42,000 pounds of rolling cargo in the form of humanitarian aid and relief supplies from Manila to Tacloban. After offloading cargo at Tacloban, the crews airlift evacuees seeking safe haven to Manila. The aircraft carry approximately 120 passengers per evacuation mission.

"Airlifters are working around the clock to support the joint airlift operation," said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Menasco, the 36th Airlift Squadron commander. "Our team is focused on providing professional airlift as we take part in this historic mission to help our Philippine allies."

As joint service and Armed Forces of the Philippines members escorted evacuees onto the aircraft at Tacloban Airport, special care was taken to assist the elderly and parents with infants.

"We are assisting evacuees with the utmost dignity and respect," Menasco said. "The people of the Philippines are our friends and neighbors -- our forward presence here in the Western Pacific and close relationship with regional allies allows us to rapidly respond to crises."

While the crews began nighttime operations, a team of eight operators from the 36th Airlift Squadron forward deployed to Camp Aguinaldo, Philippines, to assist in standing up an Air Component Coordination Element, Joint Task Force-505. The unit interfaces and provides air liaison with host-nation, joint and multinational response entities during Operation Damayan.

"As this operation builds, we look forward to refining our interoperability and improving upon lessons learned across the joint and combined operations community," Menasco said.

The 36th AS arrived at Clark Air Base Nov. 16, having just completed an airdrop exercise with their Bangladeshi counterparts. The training proved to be timely and useful, offering the opportunity to rapidly set up an off-station operations center and integrate with host-nation assets. Now, they were tasked to put the training to real-world use.

Airlift planners from the 36th AS jumped into action upon arriving, establishing a makeshift mission-planning cell collocated with Marine Aircraft Group 36, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Battalion, Air Combat Element. The Marines, along with Airmen from the 353rd Special Operations Group at Kadena Air Base, Japan, provided the 36th AS with the most current information and operational points of contact for their situational awareness.

Spanning the flight line at Clark AB is a veritable 'who's who' of joint air assets such as Air Force MC-130 Talons, Navy P-3 Orions, Marine MV-22 Ospreys and C-130Js. Yokota's Hercules aircraft are a welcome addition to the lineup, substantially increasing the capacity of the response effort.

"The C-130 Hercules is a proven workhorse that is capable of flying into the remotest of regions," said 1st Lt. Travis Wilkes, a C-130 pilot assigned to the 36th AS. "Combined with our nighttime capability, the Herc is an unstoppable force when it comes to executing tactical airlift."

24-hour airlift operations will continue to launch from Clark AB this week.