Guam Airmen in the mix for Damayan support

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Sarah E. Bergstein
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs
Airmen from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, deployed to the Philippines last week in support of ongoing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan.

A four-person advance team from the 36th Contingency Response Group deployed to Villamor Air Base early last week. Additionally a 12-person assessment team plus a 37-person team deployed to Tacloban airport later in the week. The final 36th CRG contingent of 29 additional members deployed to support relief efforts at Clark Air Base.

After just five days on the ground at Tacloban airport, the 49-person CRG team has aided in the evacuation of more than 6,000 passengers from Tacloban airport and the downloading of more than 1.5 million pounds of cargo and relief supplies.

"This is a 24-hour-a-day operation and our guys are motivated," said Col. Thomas Livingston, 36th CRG commander. "There are many fantastic individual efforts and as we assist the Philippine forces in getting people on the planes, you can really see the partnership building between forces to alleviate further human suffering."

The 36th CRG took enough equipment with them to open, maintain and run an airfield, as well as set up and maintain communications with the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade plus other supporting U.S. forces.

Due to the large amount of equipment and relief supplies being delivered to Tacloban, the initial communications, ground control and survey efforts were critical to ensuring robust disaster response ability for immediate and continued relief efforts.

"The airfield was in complete disarray, so our primary job once we got on the ground was to perform an engineering test of both the runway and the parking ramp to ensure aircraft could land and take off to bring in equipment and supplies and evacuate people," said Livingston. "We're linked up under the Philippine government-led operation and have made great progress."

The 36th CRG representation on the ground includes members from the 36th Mobility Response Squadron, the 644th Combat Communications Squadron and the 736th Security Forces Squadron. They are assisting in runway and ramp operations to aid the flow of relief supplies to Philippine government units for distribution to affected citizens supporting Philippine security forces and assisting with aeromedical evacuation plans.

The mission of the 36th CRG is to be a "911 force" of multidisciplinary, cross-functional Air Force experts who are first on-scene to command, assess, and prepare a base or airfield for establishing and maintaining expeditionary aerospace forces. The group is trained to deploy all or part of its 120-person team of more than 30 specialties in less than 12-hours to anywhere in the world as they did for the Operation Damayan relief effort.

Exercises like Cope North, the annual air combat tactics, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercise that takes place each year at Andersen AFB, prepare the team to support real-world missions like Operation Damayan.

The U.S. military has a history of successfully working with international relief organizations and host nations to respond to those people affected by natural disasters.

"The Philippine people are very resilient and appreciative of our efforts," said Livingston. "We are constantly hearing from them, 'Thank you, thank you, thank you.'"

While the scope of the disaster is still being assessed and length of deployment is undetermined, members of the 36th CRG will remain on the ground supporting relief efforts as long as the Government of the Philippines requests their support.