Camp Gonsalves, Okinawa, Japan --
When a military aircraft goes down outside of U.S. territory, the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit deploys a specially trained team for rescue and recovery.
Marines and Sailors with Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, 31st MEU, completed a Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel training exercise at the Jungle Warfare Training Center here, Jan. 27.
An MV-22 Osprey and an AH-1W Cobra with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 (Reinforced), 31st MEU, flew from Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, located in southern Okinawa, to pick up the TRAP team on Camp Hansen, and fly north to the site of the notional crash. The Osprey was responsible for transport while the Cobra provided security and helped direct the TRAP team to the downed pilots from above.
The exercise tested the coordinated efforts of the 31st MEU’s Ground Combat Element and Aviation Combat Element in a realistic scenario.
"It’s vital to continuously refine the MEU skill set as a (Marine Air Ground Task Force); integration of the air and ground assets as well as logistics and command element," said Maj. H. Christopher Kemp, future operations officer with the 31st MEU Command Element, and a native of Milpitas, Calif. "It takes a combined effort as one to pull this off."
Once on the ground, the TRAP team faced the dense jungle and slippery slopes of red clay providing additional challenge to the search. They moved in a tactical column approximately 500 meters until they spotted a hydration system lying on the side of the trail. The downed pilots were close by, and with help from the "eye in the sky" they found them.
"It was pretty tough to get oriented at first, but we had the Cobra guiding us to the general location where we found them," said Lance Cpl. Matthew T. Aston, a mortarman with Weapons Co, BLT 2/5, 31st MEU, and a native of Riverton, Utah.
The TRAP team verified the pilots’ identities before a corpsman examined them for injuries. One of the pilots had simulated injuries, requiring the rescue team to deal with a broken leg and a puncture wound in the abdomen.
"After our corpsman stabilized [the injured pilot], we placed him on the stretcher and the support team carried him back to the [landing zone]," said Sgt. Jacob H. Greenlief, a team leader with Weapons Co, BLT 2/5, 31st MEU, and a native of Kirkwood, Ill.
The Marines and Sailors of the TRAP team rushed from the back of their aircraft, set up security, searched for and found the pilots, provided medical treatment, and brought the wounded pilots back to the Osprey for evacuation in less than 30 minutes.
"The Marines and the corpsmen did a tremendous job," said Kemp, who was one of the downed pilots for the training. "No air crew or ground personnel [should] worry, because the best is coming to retrieve them."
The TRAP mission was one of many integral training events that comprise the MEU’s pre-deployment training package; designed to test the unit’s ability to conduct rapid planning and mission execution within a limited timeframe. The 31st MEU is the Marine Corps’ force in readiness for the Asia-Pacific region and the only continuously forward-deployed MEU.