News: USS George Washington provides Ospreys expeditious refueling point
Story by Cpl. Jose Lujano
AT SEA = The USS George Washington served as a forward arming and refueling point for MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft and naval aircraft off the coast of Guiuan, Republic of the Philippines, starting Nov. 14 during Operation Damayan.
The Ospreys are currently assigned to 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade’s aviation combat element in support of Joint Task Force 505.
Since the first Osprey refueled on the carrier, more than 26,383 gallons of fuel has been provided to the Ospreys alone.
This operation marked the first time an Osprey landed on the carrier’s flight deck.
“The more assets we have working together as a joint unit to support the operation, the more support we have to deliver to the people of the Philippines,” said Col. Brian W. Cavanaugh, commanding officer of the ACE.
A FARP is a temporary refueling facility, normally located close to the area of operations, allowing aircraft to conduct continuous operations without having to return to an established airport to refuel. With more than 900 air missions flown, the refueling point aboard the ship was essential in maintaining the flow of aid supplies.
“The carrier’s position is in the center of the path that Typhoon Haiyan affected, and is located close to areas we are providing aid to,” said Capt. Alexander J. Rhodes, a Texas native and an Osprey pilot with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 262, currently assigned to 3rd MEB in support of JTF-505.
The location of the carrier expedited the JTF’s mission and helped maintain the squadron’s effectiveness, according to Rhodes.
“As an Osprey squadron, the carrier has helped us out immensely with quick fuel, quick supplies and quick manpower,” said Rhodes. “It allowed us to continue operating as fast as we have throughout the day. In addition to the fuel they give us, all the supplies they brought with them are distributed throughout the affected areas.”
The carrier allows the Osprey to remain on station longer to evacuate people and transport supplies throughout the day.
With refueling points such as the George Washington and the Mactan Cebu International Airport, the Ospreys and aircraft with the Armed Forces of the Philippines and U.S. have transported more than 1,200 tons of relief supplies and evacuated approximately 10,000 people from the affected areas.
Haiyan impacted more than 4.2 million people from across 36 provinces in the Philippines, according to the Philippine government’s National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
“Our role as a JTF during the operation is to respond quickly with aid to save lives and alleviate human suffering,” said Cavanaugh.
The ongoing U.S. humanitarian and disaster relief mission is known as Operation Damayan, which means “mutual aid” in Tagalog, one of two official languages of the Philippines, the other being English.
“Seeing our U.S. forces come together and work as one is phenomenal,” said Cavanaugh. “It’s a representation of the citizens of America; the giving and sympathetic nature of all the brave men and women that our country has. Everyone here is working hard, they love what they are doing as part of being a Marine and sailor, and they are coming together to do whatever they can to provide aid to the people of the Philippines.”
For a majority of the sailors with the USS George Washington Carrier Strike Group, working with Ospreys has been an eye-opening experience.
“Just as it was a first time for a lot of us (sailors), it was a first for the (Osprey) pilots and crews; however, we both now know that, in the case of future operations, this is not new and we can work even closer,” said Seaman Marcos R. Davilabanrey, a Puerto Rico native and an aviation boatswain’s mate (fuel) airman with the strike group.