Tolman High School grad keeping Philippine relief effort in motion

Tolman High School grad keeping Philippine relief effort in motion

PHILIPPINES - Petty Officer Wilfred Marquis, a Pawtucket native, is a key figure in the effort to help victims of a catastrophic typhoon in the Republic of the Philippines.

A 2000 Tolman High School graduate, Marquis is supporting Operation Damayan, the humanitarian response to Typhoon Haiyan, which hit the island two weeks ago and caused widespread death and destruction.

Marquis serves aboard the USS George Washington as an aviation ordnanceman who maintains missile launchers, bomb racks, and gun systems for various aircraft stationed onboard the ship. As part of the relief effort, he is keeping search and rescue equipment going as his colleagues bring food, water and other supplies to the people.

Marquis told The Breeze that his work with Operation Damayan is "one of the reasons" he joined the military. Helping people "means a lot to me," said Marquis, and he and other military personnel will be in the Philippines for "as long as they need us."

Marquis said he has stayed on the USS George Washington since his arrival in the Philippines last week, and has not been among those dealing with the devastation on the ground.

USS George Washington, CVN-73, is an American nuclear-powered supercarrier, the sixth ship in the Nimitz class and the fourth U.S. Navy ship to be named after George Washington, first president of the United States.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel ordered USS George Washington and other Navy ships to make best speed for the Philippines after the devastating typhoon struck.

Derrick Ingle, deputy public affairs officer for the Navy, said Marquis and others with him are mainly responsible for getting food and water to people in the Philippines who have been displaced by the typhoon. Since Nov. 12, they have delivered 368,600 liters, or nearly 100,000 gallons of water, and 160,000 pounds of food and dry goods. They have recovered 519 "distressed persons" and gotten them aid and medical attention, said Ingle.

The work by those on the USS George Washington is just part of a much broader effort by the U.S. government to help the government and military of the Philippines, said Ingle. U.S. Navy members will be here as long as they're needed and as long as the Philippine government wants them here, he said.

The USS George Washington, which carries 5,000 sailors and more than 80 aircraft, was accompanied by cruisers USS Antietam, USS Cowpens, USS Lassen, and the destroyer USS Mustin. The supply ship USNS Charles Drew met up with the others as they arrived in the Philippines.

Embarked on board USS George Washington is Carrier Air Wing Five, or CVW-5, a collection of aircraft designed to perform various functions including disaster relief. CVW-5 includes the "Golden Falcons" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 12, flying the MH-60S Seahawk, and the "Saberhawks" of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 77, flying the MH-60R Seahawk.