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This TRAP's a Downed Pilot's Best Friend

By Cpl. Derek A. Shoemake, USMC
Special to American Forces Press Service

DOGANBEY, Turkey, Nov. 1, 2000 – On the morning of Oct. 18, it took Navy Seaman Jacob Longoria about 15 minutes to eat breakfast. That afternoon, he and other members of the Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel team needed only four minutes to rescue two downed pilots from enemy territory.

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Marines from Golf Company, Battalion Landing Team 2/2, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), assault "Blue Beach" during NATO Exercise Destined Glory 00 at Doganbey, Turkey. The company's objective was to secure the beachhead for reinforcements. The early October joint combined exercise was intended to build interoperability and cooperation among allies in the Mediterranean region. Photo by Sgt. Brook R. Kelsey, USMC.
  

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Though only a training mission, there was nothing simulated about the TRAP team's speed. The team, from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), tested its mettle during NATO Exercise Destined Glory 2000 here. The mid-October joint combined exercise involved more than 21,000 troops, 70 ships, 70 fixed-wing aircraft and 60 helicopters.

The goal of most TRAP missions is simple: Rescue the pilots, crew, passengers and, many times, recover the aircraft. The Destined Glory exercise was the first chance 2nd Lt. Robert Dinero's men had to perform a TRAP since their deployment began.

"We spent less than four minutes on the deck, and that's exactly how you want it to happen," team commander Dinero said. "In the real thing, you could be in a hostile and uncertain environment. The shorter amount of time you spend on the deck and in those surroundings, the better."

Some of that speed depends on two corpsmen, Longoria and his partner, Petty Officer 3rd class Jason Jeffries. Once the team establishes security and locates the pilots or crew, the medical duo must assess any injuries. They have only seconds to determine whether the injured can be moved immediately or must be treated first.

In the Destined Glory scenario, the Marines who acted as the downed pilots were given mock injuries. Longoria and Jeffries examined them and told Dinero to move them instantly.

"The first thing you're looking for is damage to the spine or skull," Longoria said. "If we're in enemy territory or taking fire, we obviously do not have a lot of time. We make our call and go. It's life over limb." The Houstonian said he was confident in his ability to make those split decisions.

"You are dealing with someone's life. That's a major responsibility. If that responsibility does not weigh heavily on you, then you need to look at yourself," he said. "You have to know what you're doing."

In addition to his corpsmen's performance, Dinero said the MEU's Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 264 provided the aerial support that made their mission possible. A squadron CH-53E Super Stallion put the team down within a few hundred yards of the pilots.

Though his team performed well in their four-minute mission, the lieutenant said he wants more training for his Marines and sailors.

"A lot of the TRAP team's success relies on muscle memory. You have to be able to do it with your eyes closed," Dinero said. "I think my guys showed some good muscle memory on this mission. This doesn't mean we can stop training, it just means we're where we're supposed to be. But we have to train to stay there."

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageMarines of 1st Platoon, Fox Company, Battalion Landing Team 2/2, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) board a CH-53E Super Stallion after a successful Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel mission. During the simulated rescue, the Marines landed, secured the area and rescued two downed pilots in less than five minutes. The mission was held Oct. 17, 2000, during Destined Glory 2000, a joint combined NATO exercise to build cooperation and interoperability among allies in the Mediterranean region. Photo by Cpl. Rick O'Connor, USMC.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageMarines of 1st Platoon, Fox Company, Battalion Landing Team 2/2, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) board a CH-53E Super Stallion after a successful Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel mission. During the simulated rescue, the Marines landed, secured the area and rescued two downed pilots in less than five minutes. The mission was held Oct. 17, 2000, during Destined Glory 2000, a joint combined NATO exercise to build cooperation and interoperability among allies in the Mediterranean region. Photo by Cpl. Rick O'Connor, USMC.   
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageMarines of 1st Platoon, Fox Company, Battalion Landing Team 2/2, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) carry a simulated wounded pilot to a CH-53E Super Stallion during a Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel exercise. During the simulated rescue mission, the Marines landed, secured the area and rescued two downed pilots in less than five minutes. The mission was held Oct. 17, 2000, during Destined Glory 2000, a joint combined NATO exercise to build cooperation and interoperability among allies in the Mediterranean region. Photo by Cpl. Rick O'Connor, USMC.  
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