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Osprey invaluable during humanitarian missions

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MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — Following the devastating 7.0-magnitude earthquake that rocked Haiti in 2010, U.S. Southern Command established Joint Task Force Haiti, which included U.S. ships and aircraft, to race to the aid of thousands trapped in the rubble and millions without shelter. For the first time in history, the U.S. military employed the MV-22B Osprey in support of humanitarian assistance.

The Osprey is designed to perform missions like a conventional helicopter, but with the long-range, high-speed cruise performance of a turboprop aircraft. These abilities provide the military with even greater range to assist in disaster relief operations like an earthquake in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The topic of humanitarian assistance, disaster relief will be the main topic during San Francisco Fleet Week Oct. 6-11. The U.S. Marine Corps has many assets to assist in the aftermath of an earthquake; the Osprey is one of the more unique resources.

The ability to fly faster and farther than any other rotorary-wing aircraft in the Marine Corps gave the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit a great advantage during Operation Unified Response.

Ospreys with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 162 (Reinforced) launched from the deck of the USS Nassau to conduct aerial surveys of Northern Haiti towns and roadways; insert teams of Marines to meet with Haitians; assess local and regional needs and issues; and deploy to pick up rations of rice and lentils from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to bring the supplies back to the ship.

“I think that’s where we made our money,” said Maj. Trevor Heidenreich, an Osprey pilot with VMM- 561 and New Philadelphia, Ohio, native. “The ships were able to push in so close to Haiti that the legacy rotorary-wing aircraft could [deliver supplies]. We could do two or three trips a day to Guantanamo Bay for the other aircraft to take supplies into Haiti.”

The main effort of delivering relief supplies and transporting the injured was handled by the CH-53E Super Stallions and Ospreys. Both aircraft provided a significant lift capability. The CH-53E is able to carry up to 17,000 pounds and the Osprey up to 8,000 pounds. The Osprey also provided some flexibility for the Marines to execute missions.

With all the aircraft combined, the VMM-162 (Rein) covered more than 100 flights and more than 220 flight hours including test flights. They transported more than 55,100 pounds of food, 14,600 liters of water, medical supplies and 1,000 passengers, including civilians, Marines and sailors.

“The overall advantage for using the Osprey is the efficiency we can get all of this done with,” said Capt. Robert Shuford, a spokesman with VMM-162 (Rein) during Operation Unified Response. “The speed of the Osprey allows us to land multiple teams in areas all throughout northern Haiti, leave them there with enough time to get a good assessment and retrieve all these teams before nightfall — only using two Ospreys.”

The aircraft’s ability to fly farther and faster allowed the squadron and 24th MEU to provide timely assistance to the Haitian people.

The capabilities of the Osprey will be on display during the San Francisco Fleet Week Air Show and the public will have the opportunity to see one up close during Navy ship tours Oct 7-10.

Article by I MEF