FORT KNOX, Kentucky (Feb. 27, 2015) -- The Joint Staff announced eligibility guidelines Jan. 14 for the Humanitarian Service Medal for Republic of the Philippines Relief Efforts, known as Operation Damayan.
When Typhoon Haiyan devastated large areas of the Philippines during November 2013, the U.S. forces responded swiftly and in force to a request from the country's government for humanitarian assistance.
Now, more than 13,000 Service members who delivered relief supplies, transported military and nongovernmental organization personnel and evacuated victims of the typhoon may apply to have their service formally recognized.
To be eligible, Service members must have been physically present and provided humanitarian assistance between Nov. 10 and Dec. 1, 2013. Damayan means "to help each other" in Filipino.
Eligible Soldiers who are serving should submit their applications for a determination of eligibility through their unit S-1 to the Army commander having operational control over military assistance for Operation Damayan, said Patricia Hill, policy and current operations chief for the Awards and Decorations Branch, Soldier Programs and Services Division, adjutant general of the Army Directorate, U.S. Army Human Resources Command, or HRC.
Veterans and retirees should apply directly to HRC's Awards and Decorations Branch. Army National Guard Soldiers who served under Title 32, U.S. Code orders by authority of a state governor are not approved to receive the HSM. Those Service members would receive applicable recognition as offered by their state governors, she said.
Hill said that for most Service members who participate in joint humanitarian operations, such as Damayan, a request for the HSM will be initiated by the appropriate joint command headquarters and submitted to the Joint Staff for approval or disapproval. When Army personnel are the sole participants in a humanitarian operation, the appropriate commander routs requests for HSM approval through Army channels to HRC.
"If it is Army only, the unit will submit to this office and we would prepare a request to the secretary of the Army. We staff it through the Army headquarters to approve or disapprove," she said.
For example, the HSM for participation in relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Sandy in 2013 was processed by the Joint Staff, while the HSM for Soldiers, who responded to the flood disaster in Colorado last year, was processed by HRC and approved by the Army secretary, Hill said.
It is normal for approval of eligibility for HSM recognition to take up to a year or longer from the end date of a humanitarian assistance operation, according to Hill.
Applicants must provide evidence that substantiates their direct participation in the humanitarian response operation. That can include entries in enlisted or officer evaluation records, certificates or letters of commendation or appreciation, copies of the Soldier's temporary duty or special duty orders, after action or situation reports, rosters, unit files or equivalent verifications.
Hill said her office has already received a few queries from the field since the Joint Staff announcement of the HSM for Operation Damayan, which is not unusual for a branch that is constantly processing actions for Soldiers across the force.
"Missions are ongoing all the time," said Hill, who is a former Army sergeant first class.
The branch processes some 6,000 actions per month, said branch chief Lt. Col. Wil Neubauer. Those actions span the full spectrum of awards and decorations, whether campaign, expeditionary or service based. Once approved, the Awards and Decorations Branch update the Personnel Electronic Records System, or iPERMS, records of all recipients.
While there is no cut-off date for making an application for HSM determination, Soldiers and retirees should submit their requests at their earliest convenience, Hill said.