LEYTE, Republic of the Philippines (NNS) -- USS Essex (LHD 2), USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49), USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) and elements of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), Joint Task Force (JTF) Balikatan arrived on station off the coast of Southern Leyte to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR) Feb. 19 for victims of a recent mudslide there.
Essex and Harpers Ferry responded immediately to the Republic of the Philippines' request for humanitarian relief aid after the mudslide swept over the farming village Guinsahugon and two other nearby villages, about 420 miles southeast of Manila.
"We were sent to assist in the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief mission because the crew and embarked Marines of the 31st MEU, JTF Balikatan are trained for this kind of mission," said Capt. Martin J. Keaney, Essex commanding officer.
Capt. Mark E. Donahue, commodore, Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 11, the Task Group commander of the Forward Deployed Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) flew over the area Feb. 19 and met with members of the Philippine military.
"We went to survey the area at the invitation of the Philippine government," said Donahue. "I discussed what we would be able to provide with members of the Philippine army task force coordinating relief efforts. We now have diggers on the ground to assist."
Essex, Harpers Ferry and Curtis Wilbur personnel are standing ready to assist.
"We are currently gathering onboard relief supplies, volunteers, linguists and other preparations to be ready to provide assistance while on station off of Leyte," added Keaney.
Both Essex and Harpers Ferry are part of the Navy's only forward-deployed amphibious force, based out of Sasebo, Japan.
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