A good example of that is when
Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar
(also called Burma) in 2008,
killing tens of thousands of people
and leaving massive damage.
However, the military junta in
charge of the country limited international aid relief to the basics,
refusing to allow foreign workers
or military into the country.
“I had an opportunity to travel
to Burma last fall and speak with
some of their government officials
about disaster relief,” Finman said,
noting that the disaster was still
fresh on people’s minds, and that
attitudes toward foreign relief may
be changing in the wake of it.
“I think governments stand the
risk of losing credibility by not
asking for assistance,” he said.
But it has not been just lessons
learned and tactics that have
evolved over the years. The Navy also has a raft of new
tools at its disposal that make the work easier, such as
the V- 22 Osprey and upgraded UH-1Y helicopters in
the air, as well as the joint high-speed vessel (JHSV),
afloat forward staging base (AFSB) and littoral combat
ship in the sea.
“V- 22 was an absolute game-changer in the Philip-
pines,” Finman said. “It was the first time we really saw
it used in an HADR [humanitarian assistance/disaster
relief] environment. It proved its worth 100 times over
in that operation.”
Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic
and Budgetary Assessments, said that the Marine Corps
continues to find more examples of the V- 22’s versatility,
and Nepal is one such case where the Osprey’s unique
qualities come into play. The V- 22 has benefits of greater
speed and range, but it also is able to operate at higher
altitudes, enabling it to contribute more in mountainous
regions such as Nepal in ways that other helicopters can-
not. And the service’s selection of the aircraft over the C-
2 Greyhound as the next-generation Carrier On-board
Delivery (COD) aircraft is likely to change the way the
Navy handles disaster relief.
“At first, the suggestion was just to use it as the
COD because it was sort of a fallback position and it
gets the production line going,” Clark said. “But the
more they looked at it, the more they said, ‘This is
going to be a huge benefit because you can do a lot of
things you can’t do with the C- 2.’”
But it’s not just shiny new aircraft that will come in
handy in future disaster relief operations. As Finman
mentioned, a bevy of new vessels are making their way
into the fleet.
“One thing that’s going to be more prominent is all
these [Military Sealift Command] ships joining the
fleet,” Clark said. “It used to be the only option for a
non-combatant to help out was with a T-AKE or hos-
pital ship, and that was pretty much it. Other than
that, it was salvage ships and such that don’t have the
capacity for anything other than doing their jobs. But
now you see JHSVs showing up in the fleet, and the
AFSB is going to be out there, it’s going to provide mas-
sive humanitarian capacity.”
After all, it’s the logistics that becomes most impor-
tant in a disaster situation. When people think of dis-
aster relief, they often think of pulling bodies out of
rubble, but most of it for the Navy is about supplying
the needs of a populace: providing food and water,
making medical supplies available and preventing the
outbreak of disease.
“The military does much more work in keeping
people healthy and safe in the aftermath rather than
recovering those who were injured,” Clark said.
And because the Navy is able to get on the scene
much more quickly than the Army and the Air Force,
and can move helicopters to disaster zones lightning
fast thanks to its ships, the sea service is most often
taking the lead in such circumstances, he said.
“Logistics and movement ends up being a huge
demand signal for the military, and the Navy ends up
doing a surprising amount of that because they can
move a bunch of helicopters on a ship,” he said. ■
Sailors assigned to the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, Marines
assigned to the 3d Marine Expeditionary Brigade, and local residents and volunteers pass boxes of supplies provided by the U.S. Agency for International
Development from a U.S. Marine Corps V- 22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft to a staging area for distribution in support of Operation Damayan in Guiuan, Philippines,
Nov. 21, 2013. The George Washington Carrier Strike Group, in coordination
with Joint Task Force 505 personnel, assisted the Philippine government in relief
efforts in response to the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan.