Photo Information

Lance Cpl. Cody Goers, a native of Louisville, Kentucky, prepares to board a CH-53E Super Stallion Aug. 22 at the Central Training Area. Once the aircraft crews give a predetermined signal, Marines can make their way to the helicopter. Goers is a team leader with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, currently assigned to 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, under the unit deployment program.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Tyler Ngiraswei

Marines train for pilot recovery in jungle

28 Aug 2014 | Lance Cpl. Tyler Ngiraswei The Official United States Marine Corps Public Website

A Marine pilot finds cover in the forest sending multiple distress signals after his plane crashes deep in enemy territory.

His broken leg makes getting back to friendly lines unlikely. Remaining hidden, he hears a helicopter approaching in the distance, and shortly afterward he sees Marines weave through the jungle to rescue him.

Marines with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, tested their training during a tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel mission Aug. 22 at the Central Training Area, Okinawa, Japan.

The objective of a TRAP mission is to recover a downed pilot, his equipment and sensitive information that may have been aboard the aircraft, according to Cpl. Jesus Arenas, a squad leader with Weapons Co., 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines, currently assigned to 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, under the unit deployment program. 

“Our intelligence report gives us an approximate area of where he may be located,” said Sgt. Andrew Aper, the Marshalling Area Control Officer and a mortarman with the company. “From there we sweep that area thoroughly in case he is hiding.” 

The Marines were picked up at Landing Zone Rail by a CH-53E Super Stallion and transported to the pilot’s general vicinity.

“We will get there, insert into the tree line, extract our pilot and make sure he gets the medical care he needs,” said Aper, a Bend, Oregon, native. “Then we can debrief him on any enemy situation.”

The helicopter touches down at the Marines’ destination, they disembark and set up security until the helicopter departs and their mission begins.

The squad is separated into three elements: security, support and assault, according to Gunnery Sgt. Logan Conway, the platoon sergeant for Weapons Co.

“The security element moves in and acts as the navigators,” said Conway, a Comanche, Texas, native. “The assault moves in with the corpsman, assess (the pilot’s) injuries, if any, and do all the procedures to make sure it is the person they are looking for. The support element moves in and sets up in order to protect him and the people around him until the person is identified.”

After tending to the pilot’s wounds, the Marines make their way out of the forest. The security element takes the lead, the assault element provides security and the support element provides rear security.

“I was in Afghanistan for my first deployment,” said Arenas, a Willamina, Oregon, native. “You always have (aircraft) flying overhead. If anything goes wrong with the aircraft somebody has to be able to get the pilot out and get all the valuable equipment.”

While the training does stress the importance of retrieving sensitive property, it is focused on bringing the Marine home, according to Arenas. 

“It bothers me knowing that another Marine is hurt or something is wrong with him and knowing that he is out there,” said Arenas. “If I was out there, I would want someone to give it their all and get me to safety.”