LEYTE, Philippines — A bilateral assessment team traveled to remote areas in and near Leyte using an MV-22B tiltrotor Osprey aircraft to assess the needs of people isolated by Typhoon Haiyan Monday, as part of Operation Damayan.
U.S. Marine Col. John Merna, commanding officer of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, or MEU, and other U.S. Marines, assisted Angel Pana, of the Philippine Department of Social Welfare and Development, and members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in checking the needs of three small villages, which were destroyed in the storm.
During the assessment, the team also delivered U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, relief supplies.
Elements of the 31st MEU, traveling aboard USS Germantown and USS Ashland, arrived within the following days.
The 31st MEU brings approximately 1,000 Marines and sailors to add to the relief efforts in support of the government of the Philippines response to the massive typhoon, which has affected more than 4 million people.
“The assessment team determined requirements for food, water and medical support, basic needs that the 31st MEU, in coordination with USAID and in support of the ongoing efforts of the Philippine government, might be able to assist with,” said Merna. “The team was able to travel quickly to these remote areas because of the speed of the MV-22 Osprey when compared to traditional helicopters.”
The 31st MEU last assisted with a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief mission in 2011, after the Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent tsunami.
The team traveled to Casuguran, on Homonhon Island; Buena Vista, on Mamicami Island; and Pandan, Burawen, on Leyte Island.
At each site, the bilateral team met with local leadership to record needs, take requests, and determine emergent medical requirements.
“The aid is quickly getting to these people in need due to the speed and range of the Osprey,” said Pana. “Most of the remote areas are now being reached through our united efforts.”
Midway through the assessment flight, the Osprey refueled aboard the USS George Washington aircraft carrier. Operation Damayan is the first event where Ospreys have landed on the ship.
The MEU will supplement the ongoing efforts of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade as part of Joint Task Force-505, operating in support of the Government of the Philippines in coordination with USAID.