The Initial Response to the Philippine Relief Mission: An Osprey Squadron in Action


11/17/2013: As the 1st Marine Wing prepared to celebrate the USMC birthday at a ball, and to prepare for a long weekend around Veteran’s Day, this reverie was smashed by the reality of a Typhoon.

Nature had another idea and another approach to Veteran’s Day.

It was time for the Veteran’s in the making to go to work, and not to celebrate the past.

It was a case of Marines making history; not celebrating it.

A massive Typhoon was heading towards the Philippines and the Marines needed to prepare to assist, notably as the forward deployed force with rapid support capability.

For Lt. Col. Brown, the CO of VMM-262, the “Flying Tigers, this meant as well telling his wife Darcy, that they would have to put a hold on their anniversary celebration as well.

And this meant organizing the C-130s and Ospreys to coordinate for the coming eventuality.

According to Brown, 1st MAW organized a template for the initial engagement, but the first few days on the ground were chaos, which has only now become clarified in terms of how the joint and coalition force will shape its supporting mission.

In these photos taken by the “Flying Tigers” Commanding Officer, Lt. Col. “Sniper” Brown over the past few days, one gains a perspective on the mission

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The first three photos show the Ospreys after having landed on a school field in the midst of significant devastation.

When the digital support for the mission was down, the Ospreys used aerial reconnaissance (their own) to determine where to take relief aid.

Initially, the team thought this was a soccer field but determined upon landing that it was a schoolyard.

Upon delivering aid, the Filipinos worked with the Marines and the local police who were present to deliver aide in an orderly fashion. According to Brown: “The school children were very happy to see us and the parents and children responded with enthusiasm to our arrival.”

The fourth photo shows the C-130 working closely with the Ospreys to support the mission. Indeed, because the C-130J squadron commander lives next door to Brown in Okinawa, they started planning the joint mission several days prior to its execution.

The fifth photo shows the presence of the large deck carrier with an Osprey coming in for refueling.

According to Brown, “A hub and spoke system is emerging in which the Navy helos are being supported by Marine FARPS (Forward Area Refueling Point) with the Ospreys using either the C-130s or the large deck carrier for refueling.”

In its role the USS Washington is a seasbase operating a few miles offshore and is integrated into the overall operations, rather than being considered as something apart from the overall role of airpower supporting the HA/DR mission set.

Concepts of operations can change as new technologies are added to the fleet.

The Marines have operated as the forward deployed force for the operation, and reminds one of the importance of forward presence.

Having integrated capability for the point of the spear is crucial and the Osprey clearly functions as the tip of the tip of the spear for rapid insertion.

As one senior Marine put it:

1st MAW had Ospreys and Hercs in Tacloban about 72 hrs after the storm passed. And I am not talking just about people on the ground but real, self-sustaining capability to move the mountains of relief supplies to where it was needed and where nothing else could get the job done so effectively.

There is no question it is a just a small effort against an immense catastrophe but the combination of rapid deployment and true capability is a crucial part of getting the response in play.

And it has been clear that the Marines see themselves as part of the overall joint and coalition force and working as a supporting command to the Philippine’s Armed Forces overall.

Members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spearheaded the relief efforts in Tacloban and surrounding areas by having disaster teams on-hand even before the super typhoon hit.

Multi-national forces soon fell into supporting roles to the AFP, and one week later groups and military representatives from across the globe are aiding in relief efforts.

The slideshow below highlights the role of working to support the country’s armed forces in a massive relief effort.

Lt. Col. Brown highlighted the importance as well of the night operations of the USAF C-130s able to deliver supplies at night so that the effort could be run on a 24 hour basis.

Indeed, the final picture in the slideshow below was shot by a Marine of the first C-17 involved in the relief mission and is one of the most powerful C-17 photos ever shot.

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 Credit:31st Marine Expeditionary Unit:11/15/13

  • In the first photo, a photographer with the Philippine Air Force hands out packs of biscuits to displaced Filipinos while they wait to be manifested for air transport to Manila at the Tacloban Air Field here, Nov. 15.
  • In the second photo, soldiers with the Philippine Army assist in moving an elderly Filipino local to an awaiting aircraft for transport to Manila at the Tacloban Air Field here, Nov. 15
  • In the third photo, a medical provider with the Philippine Army injects medicine into a local Filipino inside the makeshift hospital at the Tacloban Air Field here, Nov. 15.
  • In the fourth photo, a soldier with the Philippine Army leads a family to an aircraft for transport to Manila at the Tacloban Air Field here, Nov. 15.
  • In the fifth photo, a special forces soldier with the Philippine Army carries a young Filipino girl and leading others aboard a U.S. Marine Corps C-130 Hercules aircraft for transport to Manila at the Tacloban Air Field here, Nov. 15
  • In the sixth photo, a Philippine Army rescue soldier holds a Filipino child while waiting to load on an aircraft for transport to Manila at the Tacloban Air Field here, Nov. 15.
  • In the final photo, the first use of the C-17 is highlighted. Displaced Filipinos and other international personnel offload from a C-17 Globemaster III with the 535th Air Lift Squadron out of Hickam Field, Honolulu, HI, after leaving Tacloban Air Field, Nov. 15.

The video above is credited to III MEF and shows the USMC moving supplies and displaced persons while operating at Tacloban Air Base during Operation Damayam.

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