Personnel from HMAS Tobruk, the Australian Army and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) have been awarded Military Civic Action medals by the Philippines Government for their assistance following Typhoon Haiyan in late 2013.
Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Philippines, General Emmanuel Trinidad Bautista, awarded the medals onboard Tobruk yesterday, while the Australian Landing Ship (Heavy) was alongside Fleet Base East.
Presenting the medals to 18 grateful recipients, General Bautista said he and his country would never forget the assistance they received from Australia.
“I wanted to take the time to personally recognise and say thank you to you all by awarding you with this medal today,” General Bautista said.
Commanding Officer of Tobruk, Commander Leif Maxfield, said he was delighted with the honour for Tobruk’s Ships Company, which highlights their hard work on Operation PHILIPPINES ASSIST.
“Ship’s company along with the RAAF and Army worked tirelessly during the operation to positively affect recovery in the areas devastated,” Commander Maxfield said.
“It is difficult dealing with any disaster, but this is the job we signed up for and it was rewarding to be able to offer assistance to those in need.
“Humanitarian aid and disaster relief is one of our core capabilities on Tobruk and it is something we train very hard to maintain.”
Leading Seaman Erik Catada, who was born in the Philippines, said the experience was a particularly emotional for him to experience.
“The Philippines is such a beautiful place and to see the devastation was very sad,” Leading Seaman Catada said.
“The greatest thing was giving hope to the people, seeing the joy in their eyes when you have restored their schools and homes made me proud to be a part of the operation.
“To have someone say thank you for your efforts and to be formally recognised is very special,” he said.
Like many of the ships crew, Leading Seaman Narelle Knight said she found her time on Operation PHILIPPINES ASSIST a very gratifying experience and was surprised at the honour given.
“The job wasn’t easy, but we were determined to complete everything that was asked of us and the reward was seeing the difference we were making,” Leading Seaman Knight said.
“To have now received this medal, it makes me reflect on what we did and I feel very proud of my achievement, and that of my shipmates.
“It is particularly special to receive the honour from the Philippines Chief of Staff for the Armed Forces,” she said.
Four-hundred-and-eighty Australian Defence Force personnel will receive the Military Civil Action medals from the Philippines Government for meritorious achievement in the field of civic action through humanitarian aid and disaster relief.
Haiyan was recorded as one of the strongest typhoons in history, devastating the Philippines with more than 6000 fatalities and damage in excess of 2.8 billion dollars.
Following the devastation of the typhoon, the Philippines Government reached out to Australia for support, which provided a significant amount of aid and military assistance.
Tobruk ship’s company, along with members from the RAAF and Army, contributed to Operation PHILIPPINES ASSIST from late November till mid December 2013.
Tobruk is a Landing Ship Heavy, commissioned in 1981 and is based at Fleet Base East, Sydney.
Imagery is available on the Royal Australian Navy Image Library: http://images.navy.gov.au/S20141506.