Wednesday, November 27, 2013

"Hawkeyes" View of Operation Damayan

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Peter Burghart, USS George Washington Public Affairs
PHILIPPINE SEA (NNS) -- E-2C Hawkeyes from the "Liberty Bells" of Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 115, embarked aboard the U.S. Navy's forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73), fly 26,000 feet above the Republic of the Philippines to provide airborne command and control during Operation Damayan.

The Liberty Bells have flown 84.5 flight hours since the George Washington Strike Group arrived on scene Nov. 14 to direct missions and communications between eight to 10 aircraft across the 36 affected provinces.

"We usually fly about four hours per mission," said Lt. Ryan Jauregui, a mission commander with the Liberty Bells. "We have a lot of aircraft that check in with us to identify those areas in need of relief supplies."

VAW-115 acts as an eye in the sky that coordinates other aircraft in completing their relief assignments. The Hawkeyes also control the flow of information in real time, which has made the relief process more efficient.

"When we are not airborne, the turnaround times for missions go from a few minutes to 20 to 40 minutes," said Jauregui.

Even with all the hard work the Liberty Bells put in to coordinate the movement of aircraft and personnel, they don't often get to see first-hand the affects of their work.

"The toughest part is not being able to do more," said Lt. Mike Fernandez, a mission commander with the Liberty Bells. "We are doing everything we can, but there are a lot of people in need and I wish we could do more. However, the air wing tells us stories of how we are helping and that is rewarding."

George Washington Carrier Strike Group is supporting Joint Task Force 505 personnel to assist the Philippine government in response to the aftermath of Super Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda in the Republic of the Philippines.