The Navy is activating the hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH-19) to the Philippines as part of the ongoing U.S. disaster effort following Super Typhoon Haiyan, according to a Navy statement provided to USNI News.
“If ordered to deploy, Mercy would get underway in the next several days and could arrive in the Philippines sometime in December, joining other U.S. Pacific Fleet units already supporting Operation Damayan,” according to the statement.
It takes about five days to ready the ship for deployment and if given the order to deploy it would arrive in the region sometime in December, according to the service.
Mercy 69,000-ton ship is manned by a crew of civilian mariners and more than a 1,000 military medical personnel.
Mercy — if deployed — will join almost a dozen other U.S. Navy ships heading toward the region.
Aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN-73) and partial carrier strike group (CSG) are slated to late Thursday local time. The CSG is also accompanied by the supply ship USNS Charles Drew (T-AKE-10). The Navy has also activated two amphibious warships and elements of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit from Okinawa.
Activation of Mercy is latest U.S. move in aid effort, now called Operation Damayan. On Thursday U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) created a Joint Task Force (JTF) to coordinate the relief effort.
JTF-505 will be led by Lt. Gen. John E. Wissler, the commander III Marine Expeditionary
Force (MEF) on Okinawa, according to a Thursday release from PACOM.
“Lt. Gen. Wissler and his staff will depart Okinawa in the coming days as the command and control element for U.S. military support to the disaster relief efforts in the Philippines,” according to the release.
At least 580,000 people have been displaced following the landfall of Haiyan primarily near the islands of Samar and Leyte.