AFP wings carry Operation Damayan air ops
CAMP AGUINALDO, Manila -- The Philippine Air Force announced it will resume responsibility for coordinating humanitarian airlift operations Nov. 26, a move that no longer requires Joint Task Force 505's assistance with command and control of air assets supporting Operation Damayan.
A U.S. Air Force C-130H aircraft delivered the last shipment of USAID relief requested for delivery to Tacloban Airport Nov. 23, and passenger service from the airport is at a level sustainable by Philippine air assets, officials said.
The announcement initiated the retrograde of Joint Task Force 505's Air Component Coordination Element, which stood up Nov. 16 to assist the effort initially led by 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade.
"The ACCE has met all air coordination requirements and assistance benchmarks set by the Philippine government and the JTF," said Lt. Gen Lauro Dela Cruz, commanding general of the Philippine Air Force. "The PAF is thankful for their support during the initial and surge response phases, but we are confident that their assistance is no longer required."
Brig. Gen. James Hecker, commander of ACCE JTF-505, said it was an honor to bring the ACCE's unique capability to bear alongside joint and coalition partners during Operation Damayan.
"The ability to coordinate scalable joint and multinational air assets allowed us to augment the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade's established processes supporting the Philippine government's airlift mission," Hecker said. "With aid now in place where it needs to be, and the lines of communication improving at sea and on the ground every day, the demand for large-scale command and control has ceased. The PAF is fully capable with the scope of the operation where it's at now, and we will continue supporting them in our normal Pacific theater Joint Force Air Component Commander role."
During the relief effort, the ACCE provided air liaison to JTF-505 and the Joint Force Land Component Commander, which supported more than 1,100 air sorties that have delivered over 2,000 tons of relief supplies to date. Air assets evacuated more than 20,100 people from affected areas and delivered more than 2,000 relief workers into Tacloban, the region hit hardest by Super Typhoon Yolanda.
"The complexity of coordinating a multinational airlift response cannot be understated," said Col. Mike Minihan, operations officer of ACCE JTF-505. "The Marines did a super job of setting the conditions for success and we simply expanded on their foundation."
Minihan said a forward presence in the Pacific allows U.S. forces to rapidly respond to crises.
"We are honored to lend our expertise to support our treaty allies during their time of need," Minihan said. "Our long-standing commitment and deep relationship with the Government of the Philippines enabled us to integrate and assist with this multifaceted operation."
Capt. Mark Nexon, ACCE foreign airlift liaison from the 374th Airlift Wing, Yokota Air Base, Japan, said the experience working beside host nation and multinational coordinators was rewarding.
"One minute we would be coordinating airlift slot times with a member of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force and the next, an Australian airman," Nexon said. "All of us were speaking the same language, though--how to best support our Philippine allies."