CAMP AGUINALDO, Philippines, Nov. 18, 2013 – Joint Task Force 505 officially activated today to conduct humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations in support of the Philippine government and armed forces in Operation Damayan.
Marine Corps Lt. Gen. John E. Wissler, commander of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force, was designated as the JTF 505’s commander by Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, U.S. Pacific Command commander, Nov. 13. The Joint Task force continues the work begun by the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, the initial U.S. military response to the Philippine government’s request for lifesaving support and critical relief supplies for the typhoon-ravaged island nation.
JTF 505 headquarters here, near the Philippine capital of Manila, will coordinate U.S. military relief efforts and will work closely with senior representatives from the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development and other U.S. agencies to ensure continued, timely and swift responses to requests from the Philippine government, officials said. Wissler noted that the long-standing partnership and friendship between of the United States and the Philippines enabled a rapid response to the crisis.
JTF 505 currently includes nearly 850 personnel on the ground and an additional 6,200 in the USS George Washington Strike Group. An additional 1,000 Marines and sailors with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit are expected to arrive in about three days. Personnel and equipment from the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps have come from Hawaii, Okinawa, mainland Japan and the continental United States.
The joint task force will integrate and coordinate with foreign military units and nongovernmental relief organizations supporting the disaster efforts, officials said.
“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,” Wissler said. “As we reach out further and further into the outlying areas, we will have a better assessment of the complete scope of disaster.”
The duration and extent of JTF 505 support will depend on the needs of the Philippine government, he added, and U.S. forces are fully partnered with the Philippine armed forces in relief operations.
“We will be present as long as we are needed — no longer than required,” Wissler said.