modern history of the nation. More
than 6,000 people were killed there
after Haiyan roared onto land with
sustained wind speeds of up to
The devastation was complete,
and it required a particularly well-coordinated effort by the Navy to
deal with the fallout.
“There was a two-phase response
by the Navy in the Philippines,”
Finman said. “First, the carrier
strike group came in with a lot of
Navy helicopters, and they provid-
ed a degree of immediate relief by
lifting supplies into affected areas.
In the second phase, the carrier left
and the amphibious force moved in,
and the V- 22 Osprey moved in.”
The incident gave the Navy a
good opportunity to learn how to
go into a foreign nation in dire
need of help and work with the
“How can the military help the
most?” Finman said. “What can we bring that can offer
immediate relief for saving of a life?”
One thing the Navy was very careful to be mindful
of was, at the end of the day, the Philippines’ forces
were in charge and the United States was there to assist
at their direction.
“We subordinate to authority for how the military
forces will get used,” the captain said. “USAID [United
States Agency for International Development] will
interact with the host nation government primarily,
and to some extent we will interact with the host
nation military, but USAID will take the movement of
aid. USAID has disaster experts that understand the
second and third order effects of doing things.”
Finman said the Navy was so well prepared for the
event, that “I remember thinking at one point as we
were doing real-world disaster response how it feels
like an exercise. I had an idea, but to actually see it
happen was really eye-opening for me.”
While the Defense Department’s “pivot” to the Asia-
Pacific region was certainly well-publicized, the Navy
has maintained a heavy presence in the region for
decades now, and has dealt with its fair share of disasters.
One that might immediately spring to mind is the 2004
Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami that devastated
Indonesia and some surrounding nations, killing nearly
a quarter of a million people in Southeast Asia. The Navy
and the other services dispatched a large number of air-
craft as well as a carrier battle group.
But that was more than 10 years ago, and things have
continued to evolve as the Navy has worked to refine its
tactics and improve its relationships with Southeast
Asian nations. In fact, that tsunami may have changed
how the Navy approaches disasters forever.
“I think that tsunami in Indonesia was sort of a
watershed moment,” Finman said. “It really coincided
with the point at which the global community began to
understand that there needs to be a team effort. That
was sort of the turning point in our approach. And I
think that has changed in the last 10 years.
“We are often the first on the scene. We are often able
to mobilize our military forces faster than anybody else
can. But with that, I think the degree with which we see
the international community responding, I think those
mechanisms are all coming together, to be able to
respond more quickly and get coordinated more quickly
than we were able to 10 years ago,” he said.
Nations that are prone to disasters, as many in the
Asia-Pacific are, have figured out that if they ask in the
right way and understand the dynamics of process, “I
think they have more confidence they can control
what’s happening in their country,” Finman said.
Treating other nations with respect and reassuring
them that the United States is not going to barge in and
take over is just as important to the overall strategy when
it comes to disaster relief as just about anything else. After
all, if a country will not let you in because they do not
trust you, all the supplies in the world will not help.
A Nepalese soldier carries a young earthquake victim from a U.S. Marine Corps
UH-1Y Venom helicopter assigned to Joint Task Force 505 to a medical triage
area at Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu, Nepal, after a 7. 3 magnitude
earthquake struck the country May 12. Joint Task Force 505, along with other
multinational forces and humanitarian relief organizations, was providing aid in
Nepal after an initial 7. 8 magnitude earthquake struck the country April 25.