Sailors assigned to the littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) pack the cabin of an SH-60 Seahawk helicopter with supplies from Project Handclasp for delivery ashore in Tacloban, Nov. 24. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Karolina A. Oseguera)

TACLOBAN, Republic of the Philippines - USS Freedom (LCS 1) delivered ten pallets of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief supplies to officials from the Armed Forces of the Philippines on Nov. 24.

The delivery was part of Operation Damayan and occurred in Tacloban - one of the areas hardest hit by Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda. Supported by U.S. Joint Task Force 505, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is coordinating HA/DR efforts with multi-national forces, local civilian authorities and non-governmental organizations.

On scene to receive the materials from Freedom in Tacloban were Philippine representatives from AFP, the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) and Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

"We appreciate the efforts of our U.S. Navy partners from USS Freedom to deliver these supplies to the people of Tacloban," said Philippine Navy Capt. Roy Trinidad, director of the AFP's Task Force Airport in Tacloban. "We have already discussed the best use of these supplies and will deliver them within the local community as Tacloban recovers from Typhoon Yolanda."

From her position 16 nautical miles off the coast of Tacloban, Freedom delivered the five pallets of hygienic supplies and five pallets of medical supplies with her MH-60R helicopter and one from USS Cowpens (CG 63). Like other U.S. Navy ships supporting Operation Damayan, Freedom's helicopter is one of her most important HA/DR assets.

Personnel from both nations unloaded Freedom's supplies on Tacloban's airfield, including much needed items such as hand sanitizer, baby wash, bandaids and disinfectant. As noted by Capt. Trinidad, the AFP will coordinate delivery of the supplies with OCD and DSWD.

Freedom deployed to Southeast Asia with a Surface Warfare Mission Package to conduct maritime security operations with allies, partners and other 7th Fleet units, and as such, is not configured specifically for HA/DR missions. "That said," Fire Controlman 1st Class Sergio Pina explained, "while HA/DR is not our primary mission, we were very happy to be able to help the people of Tacloban as we return from deployment, and it's an honor to be part of this mission."

Loaded with the pallets in Singapore last week, Freedom joined the other U.S. Navy ships supporting Operation Damayan on Nov. 23 after a brief port call in Brunei. The delivery in Tacloban occurred as Freedom was beginning her transit across the Pacific Ocean to return to her homeport in San Diego.

Rear Adm. Cindy Thebaud, JTF 505's maritime liaison officer and commander of the U.S. Navy's Logistics Group Western Pacific, was the senior U.S. Navy official present during the delivery in Tacloban.

"Freedom deployed to this region nearly nine months ago to work with partner navies in a challenging operational environment," said Thebaud. "Supporting Operation Damayan alongside our Philippine Navy partners is a fitting way to wrap up her maiden overseas deployment. I'm very proud of Freedom's Sailors and glad to know these relief supplies will be so well used."

USS Freedom's first rotational deployment to Southeast Asia began March 1, when the ship departed San Diego and commenced a Pacific Ocean transit that included port visits in Hawaii, Guam and Manila. Freedom used Singapore as a logistics and maintenance hub between April 18 and Nov. 16, during which she participated in the International Maritime Defence Exhibition (IMDEX), three phases of the bilateral naval exercise CARAT with Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, and the multinational exercise Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT). During port visits, Freedom hosted thousands visitors from throughout Southeast Asia.

Rear Adm. Cindy Thebaud, commander of Logistics Group Western Pacific and Joint Task Force (JTF) 505's maritime liaison officer, officially hands over relief supplies delivered to Tacloban by USS Freedom (LCS 1), Nov. 24. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonah Z. Stepanik)