SAMAR PROVINCE, Republic of the Philippines – Aircrews flying MV-22B Ospreys tiltrotor aircraft with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron-265, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), and personnel from the Armed Forces of the Philippines assisted in the transportation and delivery of disaster relief supplies to isolated villages throughout the area here, Nov. 25.
The Government of the Philippines requested the 31st MEU’s assistance in delivering more than 79,000 pounds of rice and high-energy biscuits to remote island villages that are inaccessible by ground transportation. The speed and versatility of the Osprey made it the ideal aircraft for the mission.
“The Osprey provides us the ability to quickly reach multiple landing zones while carrying a heavier load than the other rotary aircraft,” said Lt. Col. Omar J. Randall, commanding officer of Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st MEU.
The Ospreys made a number of trips during the day, flying from the airfield at Guiuan to one of the eight designated landing zones before heading to the USS Germantown (LSD-42) at sea for refueling; and back to the airfield for more supplies. Approximately 600 bags of rice and more than 1,000 pounds of biscuits were delivered by the Philippine and U.S. team.
The Philippine Marines coordinated the supply offload with the aircrews and local leaders at each location and provided crowd control as needed.
There were hand-drawn signs of appreciation and volunteers ready to help with the offload at each of the eight villages during the operation.
“We are very, very, very thankful to the Americans for helping us in this hard time,” said Danmar R. Pesito, a resident on Homonhon Island. “But also thanks to our own military men who, like the Americans, have been with us since after the storm. Our great friendship will continue from this.”
The 31st MEU is ideally suited for disaster relief operations like Operation Damayan, with aviation and amphibious platforms capable of rapidly delivering relief supplies, medical assistance, transportation and engineer equipment to affected areas.
“Being a sea-based force allows us the flexibility to quickly and efficiently respond to any future requests spanning the full range of humanitarian aid requirements,” said Randall, a native of Bronx, N.Y.
As the Philippine and international relief agencies begin the transition from relief operations to recovery, the 31st MEU will remain in the area to provide assistance as direct. The departure of U.S. forces has not lessened the Philippines’ appreciation or determination, however.
“The Americans and all the other countries have helped us back to our feet, and it is time for us to rebuild our own country,” said Philippine Marine Corporal John H. Maxian, a rifleman with the Philippine Marine Corps. “Our friends around the world can always help us, but now we have to help ourselves.”