Four MV-22B Ospreys depart Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to support U.S. government humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations in the Philippines, officially named Operation Damayan, meaning 'help in time of need' in Tagalog. To date, there are approximately 250 U.S. personnel, led by 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, III Marine Expeditionary Force, in support of Operation Damayan. (Lance Cpl. Diamond Peden / Marine Corps)
The Philippines are “uniquely relevant” as a proving ground for Marine Corps amphibious crisis response and the capabilities of the Corps’ prized MV-22 Osprey, the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps said this week.
Elements of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade rapidly deployed to the Philippines in the wake of the devastating typhoon that hit the islands Nov. 8, flattening whole cities and leaving a death toll that could reach 10,000. Speaking at a Navy League event Wednesday morning, Gen. John Paxton said the capability of the Corps’ tiltrotor planes, which can fly twice as fast and as far — with twice the payload — of traditional helos, made the Marines the right force for the crucial disaster relief mission.
“I think one of the proving grounds today and one of the reasons that 3rd MEB and the Marine Corps is out there is, instructively, because of the MV-22,” He said. “To take those four MV-22s, soon to be six and to grow from there, into the Philippines, which is an island archipelago, you can move quickly from all these remote sites and damaged sites. You can get in food and medical supplies and water and things like that. So that’s the specific benefit of having an expeditionary unit with a tiltrotor aircraft down there.”
Marine Corps officials announced Wednesday morning that they had just dispatched four Ospreys to the Philippines from Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Japan, bringing the total to eight tiltrotor aircraft.
As the Marine Corps plots a shift to the Pacific and prepares for new missions as the war in Afghanistan draws to a close, top brass have stressed the importance of the Corps as a perennially ready crisis response force, for humanitarian assistance as well as tactical missions. The commandant, Gen. Jim Amos, penned a widely published editorial in September titled “U.S. Needs a Robust Crisis Response Force” that described the Corps’ strategy and mission.
More recently at a Washington, D.C., event, Maj. Gen. Frank McKenzie, Marine Corps representative to the Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review, discussed the significance of the Marine expeditionary brigade, a force significantly smaller and lighter than the 2,200-strong Marine expeditionary units, to Marine Corps planning for future crisis response.
“(MEBs are) fully manned, they can go on very short notice,” he said. “They would have the capability to go forward, to fall in on an existing MEU, or to fall in on joint forces that are forward deployed.”
Working with two Navy dock landing ships en route from Okinawa and air support from the Ospreys and four KC-130J Hercules, Marines in the Philippines are able to play to the strength of their amphibious pedigree, the assistant commandant said.
“So this is part of the amphibious and expeditionary nature that the Navy and Marine Corps team prides themselves on,” Paxton said. “The Philippines happens to be one of those areas that is kind of uniquely, geographically relevant to the Navy-Marine Task Force.”