CLARK AIR BASE, PAMPANGA, Philippines -- Wednesday marked the end of a two-week Subject Matter Expert Exchange (SMEE) between U.S. and Philippine military members here.
Over the last two weeks, approximately 30 U.S. and Philippine service members participated in a series of exchanges and discussions focused on how the acquisition and analysis of satellite imagery can support Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HA/DR) operations.
A culminating table-top exercise served as the capstone event for the SMEE. The exercise used satellite imagery of an area impacted by Typhoon Haiyan. The U.S. and Philippine service members used Eagle Vision, an unclassified commercial satellite U.S. Air Force system, to gather “before and after” imagery of areas ravaged by the tropical storm in November 2013. Pre-typhoon imagery was compared to current images of affected areas. Imagery captured by Eagle Vision was then developed into geospatial maps by U.S. Army geospatial engineers with the 5th Engineer Detachment Geospatial Planning Cell. The bilateral training partners then used the maps to plan a disaster response operation for the simulation.
"Today's table-top is about bringing together HA/DR experts from both countries," said Lt. Col. Peter Day, commander of the current Rotational Air Contingent Philippines. "Over the past two weeks we've focused mostly on the theory of how satellite imagery can help direct operational decisions for HA/DR missions. Today we are applying what we've learned to discover new tactics, techniques and procedures to ultimately enhance how we work together," said Day.
Typhoon Haiyan devastated certain communities when it hit the Philippines. More than 6,000 Filipinos lost their lives because of the storm. An estimated 20 percent of the population impacted by the Haiyan received aid during the relief efforts following the storm.
"I see this exchange as an opportunity to enhance our abilities. I see after these exchanges how I can use my intelligence skills to improve our speed and efficiency for delivering aid when disasters happen here," said Philippines Air Force Airwoman 2nd Class Jane Ralcel Bernardo, Air Logistics Command Intelligence Production Branch's enlisted person-in-charge.
Following Haiyan, BBC reported the city of Tacloban as a "war zone" due to the extensive damage the typhoon caused. Tacloban was one of the hardest hit locations and a topic of serious discussion during the simulation.
"Damage assessment is an area where I've learned I can help with disaster aid. The satellite images let us know have much damage there is or that we think there will be. This information makes it possible for us to know where to bring the most relief to help people," said Bernardo.
Eagle Vision is capable of deploying to any location in the world. The system and personnel fit entirely into a single C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft and can be set up in eight hours.
"Oftentimes disasters impact communications infrastructure which makes delivering files and information a challenge,” said Capt. Jay Munechika, Eagle Vision 5 Officer in Charge. “For HA/DR operations it's paramount we know the status of an area to help drive the decisions that impact people's lives. Eagle Vision can provide imagery quickly and to a level-of-detail that is very useful for commanders and first responders on-the-ground so they provide the best disaster response possible," said Munechika.
Eagle Vision and the U.S. military have a longstanding history of working with the Philippines in relief operations. Eagle Vision was in the country in 2006 and provided satellite imagery of Southern Leyte, which aided the Philippine military's response to a massive mudslide that killed 1,126.
"The U.S. and Philippine alliance has been a cornerstone in the Asia-Pacific. Our nations continually work together when responding to crises and this simulation builds upon the teamwork necessary to deliver aid following a disaster,” Day said.