CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa, Japan --
Marines and sailors riding in High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs) and Light Armored Vehicle’s rushed to the scene of a crashed helicopter. They dismounted and began searching by foot for two downed pilots. Steep slopes and tall underbrush slowed their advance, but they pushed on in search of their fellow Marines.
Marines and Sailors with Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, performed a tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel exercise as part of the unit’s pre-deployment training package at Kin Blue beach here, Dec. 12.
The TRAP team conducted the mission to increase their proficiency in rescuing downed forces or aircraft, providing the capability to conduct this mission within the Marine Air Ground Task Force rather than sourcing assets from other allies or branches.
“It helps the Marines prepare for a real life scenario in case a pilot really does go down,” said Sgt. Steve N. Marin, a mortarman with Headquarters and Service Company, BLT 2/5, 31st MEU, and a native of Los Angeles, Calif. “They’ll have an understanding of how they’re supposed to maneuver, what to look for, how to authenticate, how to treat a downed pilot, or how to get a pilot out of a tree in case they get stuck.”
The recovery team arrived at the reported crash site and immediately setting up a defensive perimeter before pushing the search team out for the two downed pilots.
The rescue party found one of the pilots coming down the hill, simulating a sprained ankle. They confirmed the pilot’s identity by asking preplanned security questions and determined the whereabouts of the other pilot.
Shortly after the first pilot was evacuated to the vehicle convoy, the team found the second pilot behind thick jungle brush. The pilot’s simulated injuries inflicted severe pain and left him immobile. Following authentication, the recovery team stabilized the pilot on a spine board and brought him to the pickup zone.
Once both pilots were evacuated, the team mounted their vehicles and left for debriefing and medical care.
Being a part of the 31st MEU, there’s the potential to be given the task to respond to an emergency crash situation, which would require qualified personnel to accomplish the mission, according to Lance Cpl. Clark P.E. Krupa, a machine gunner with Weapons Company, BLT 2/5, 31st MEU.
“For this situation, it was a pretty fast TRAP, but it could always be different,” said Krupa, a native of Portland, Oreg. “Through this exercise, we can always be ready to help out if it happens.”
The scenario is part of the semiannual MEU Exercise training evolutions – otherwise known as ‘MEUEX” - which develops interoperability between the subordinate elements of the MEU prior to each regularly scheduled deployment.
The 31st MEU is the Marine Corps’ force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region and is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU.