Feb 26, 2014 -- CAMP FOSTER, Japan - Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, commander, U.S. Pacific Command, visited Okinawa Feb. 7 at the Camp Foster Theater to commend and award service members who participated in the relief efforts during Operation Damayan in the Republic of the Philippines.
The efforts from the U.S. military during Operation Damayan include approximately 2,748 flight hours, delivering a total of 2,495 tons of cargo to aid the relief effort, and successfully evacuating more than 21,000 people.
“I want to thank you all for (your efforts during Operation Damayan) and what you do,” said Locklear. “Every one of you performed superbly and with initiative.”
Among the awarded recipients were Lance Cpl. Ross D. Bolewski, a data support specialist with 7th Communication Battalion, III Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, III MEF; Navy Lt. Kevin D. Reid, a medical planner with III MEF Surgeon’s Office; Petty Officer 3rd Class Daniel Vilchezarrona, a corpsman with Combat Logistic Regiment 37, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III MEF; and Army Lt. Col. Anthony Q. Lee, a logistics officer with 10th Regional Support Group.
“I’m (very grateful) for the award (that I received),” said Bolewski. “I am very proud of the award.”
The recipients were commended for working with Joint Task Force 505 by providing swift communications, medical, and other forms of support within 24 hours of responding to the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief effort.
“The first deployment to the Philippines was comprehensive and pretty supportive,” said Bolewski. “(Relief efforts) were almost immediate. (My unit) was tasked provided essential communications functions to the staff to maintain the centralized network for JTF-505 headquarters.”
The cohesion between military branches and interoperability of different nations’ forces are some of the necessary factors in generating successful operations such as Operation Damayan, according to Lt. Gen. John E. Wissler, the III MEF commanding general.
“Part of the reason we are such a success is that we train and operate together,” said Wissler. “I couldn’t be prouder about the team out there.”
Locklear also emphasized the importance of the service members’ efforts for future operations and exercises in the Pacific theater.
“(Approximately) 80 percent of natural disasters happen in this (area of responsibility),” said Locklear. “You will be the first responders to these events in the Pacific theater.”
The operation impacted the other countries by showing them the military’s dedication to mission accomplishment, according to Locklear.
“Because of the initiative everyone had for (Operation Damayan), you gave (the Filipinos) the confidence and initiative to work together,” said Locklear.