A Marine aviation squadron that had just wrapped up a training exercise in the Philippines wound up delivering 64,000 pounds of food and water in the northern part of the country following a devastating typhoon, the Marine Corps said.

Thirty-five Marines and sailors from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 163, part of 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, were at Antonio Bautista Air Base, Puerto Princesa, Philippines, on July 30. They had just finished Marine Aviation Support Activity 23, a bilateral military exercise, and were preparing to head home to Miramar, California, according to a Corps news release.

But that morning, they got tasked with the new mission at the request of the Filipino military.

The next day, the troops from the squadron flew their four MV-22B Ospreys and four CH-53E Super Stallions to Subic Bay International Airport, where they began loading up their aircraft with supplies.

A week of stormy weather across the Philippines’ main island of Luzon had caused 39 deaths, including 26 killed in the capsizing of a passenger ship.

At least 13 people were reported killed earlier due to Typhoon Doksuri’s onslaught ― mostly from landslides, flooding and toppled trees ― and thousands were displaced, disaster response officials said.

As of July 28, more than 20 people remained missing, including four coast guard personnel whose boat overturned while on a rescue mission in a hard-hit province, disaster response officials said.

In the three-day relief mission, the Ospreys flew a 800-mile round trip daily to the Batanes Islands, while the Super Stallions distributed supplies around northern Luzon, according to the release.

Seventeen Marines from the 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment also assisted with loading and unloading supplies and with clearing debris from roads, Marine spokeswoman 1st Lt. Erin Scudder told Marine Corps Times. These Marines had also participated in the bilateral exercise and had been awaiting their redeployment back to Hawaii when they got tasked with relief efforts.

The troops had to battle constant, monsoon-season rain and humidity and deliver supplies to difficult locations, including one spot in a field on the side of a mountain, Lt. Col. David Batcheler, the commanding officer of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 163, told Marine Corps Times.

“This is exactly what we’re built to do,” Batcheler said. “We’re built to overcome adversity, overcome a lot of the harsh elements that are in this environment.”

When they landed, the Marines and sailors got help from Filipino troops and first responders, or, in the more remote areas, local civilians, according to Batcheler. They formed an assembly line to unload by hand each aircraft of the 8,000 pounds to 12,000 pounds of supplies, the commanding officer said.

Members of the Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 163 have been known as “Ridge Runners” for more than half a century, after providing rescue and relief operations in a mountainous area of Japan not long after the squadron’s 1951 founding, according to the website of 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.

Batcheler said those in his squadron were smiling and high-fiving local children even as they performed difficult work amid monsoon rains.

“The Marines could not have been more proud of what they were doing,” Batcheler said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Irene Loewenson is a staff reporter for Marine Corps Times. She joined Military Times as an editorial fellow in August 2022. She is a graduate of Williams College, where she was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.

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