USS Cowpens Assists in Operation Damayan
TALCOBAN, Philippines - Ticonderoga guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens (CG 63) commenced its aid to the Republic of the Philippines in support of Operation Damayan, Nov. 16.
The cruiser has been providing aid to the locals affected by Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda via SH-60B Seahawk helicopter supply-drops provided by its embarked squadron, the "Scorpions" of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 49.
"Our efforts here in the Philippines continues in earnest," said Capt. Gregory Gombert, Cowpens' commanding officer. "We're just ramping up. Cowpens is willing and ready to support this humanitarian aid effort in every way possible."
The SH-60B's are flying into Tacloban Air Base to pick up supplies before dropping them onto nearby areas and islands most affected by the typhoon.
"The first time I saw the impact of the typhoon, I was shocked," said Lt. j.g. Christine Mayfield, a pilot assigned to HSL 49. "It feels great to be out there and helping people."
The SH-60Bs are being met by Sailors from the George Washington Strike Group, Soldiers, Marines, the Republic of Philippines government, and civilians who are eager to help transport supplies to those who need it most.
"We had people who just kept helping us carry boxes, bags and water onto the helicopter," said Aviation Aircrewman (Tactical Helicopter) 3rd Class Peter Olson. "It was good to see people out there who were carrying supplies, sweating all day to make sure that these supplies got to where they needed to go."
Many of the drops conducted by the helicopters were in areas that still had yet to receive aid. Pilots had to steer clear of trees, debris, fallen structures and mud left behind by the typhoon.
"It took a lot of crew coordination to land in some of the landing zones," said Lt. Anthony Morana, a pilot of HSL-49. "The first place we went to had soft ground so we started sinking. We had to come up and found a place to hover over to drop supplies. The co-pilot and the aircrewman did a great job talking to each other and letting each other know what they saw and how to make adjustments and clear a flight path."
The crews of the SH-60B were met by groups of people who were extremely grateful to receive the supplies. Men, women and children smiled and thanked the crew as they departed the landing zones.
"It was a lot of work to get those items to the people, but it didn't matter because it's all going where it needs to go," said Olson. "It was nice to see how appreciative the people in need were once we got there. I was very anxious to help."
Cowpens is with the George Washington Strike Group supporting the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade to assist the Philippine government in response to the aftermath of the Super typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda in the Republic of the Philippines.