US troops end Yolanda mission; others out by mid-December
MANILA, Philippines – The US has pulled out from the Visayas its 12,000 troops, its Ospreys, C130s, and ships after providing critical assistance to the Yolanda-devastated provinces for 3 weeks. Other countries are also leaving soon.
The US troops pulled out on Sunday, December 1, from the Multi-National Cooperating Center (MNCC) headquarters inside Camp Aguinaldo. They started redeploying on November 25, according to MNCC director Captain Rafael Mariano.
MNCC oversees the tasks of foreign militaries involved in the humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR) operations. At least 16 countries came to help, flying in up to 61 aircraft at one point to help transport relief goods and evacuees.
The Americans were among the first responders. The survey team arrived in Tacloban City a day after Yolanda flattened towns and cities to assess the damage and determine the assets they needed to bring in.
"They brought in their unique capability to transport goods. The immediate relief was really commendable. Without them, it would have taken us longer to respond," said Mariano.
The US cargo planes were among the first to fly in. This was followed by its Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, which make operations more efficient because they fly as fast as airplanes and can land vertically like helicopters. The aircraft carrier USS George Washington also arrived with its 5,000 sailors and several ships, and at least 20 helicopters aboard.
The US Joint Task Force 505 assisted the Armed Forces of the Philippines command and control air assets and maritime forces supporting Operation Damayan for Typhoon Yolanda victims.
The US also provided the radar and fixed facilities at the Tacloban City airport to allow aircraft to land at night.
The Israeli army also earlier pulled out its 148 specialists who provided medical as well as search-and-rescue services in Tacloban.
The schedules are not fixed yet, but Mariano said most of the foreign militaries are expected to leave by the middle of December. There are about 20 foreign aircraft that are still in the country.
Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, and China are among the countries still helping in relief and rehabilitation work. There are other countries like Brunei that are scheduled to arrive with assistance. Taiwan and Bangladesh also earlier delivered goods but have since left the country.
The foreign militaries are spread out in the typhoon-devastated provinces. Canada has now focused its efforts on Panay Island. The Australians are in Ormoc City, while China's Peace Ark is in the Leyte Gulf. – Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler.com