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HM3 Martin Brown, a corpsman with Company B, 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, assesses the injuries of a downed pilot during a Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel exercise at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., March 18. The course provided the Marines and sailors the opportunity to practice setting up security, communication and applying first aid.

Photo by Cpl. R. Logan Kyle

Marines learn to recover downed aircraft personnel

26 Mar 2010 | Cpl. R. Logan Kyle

Marine pilots and their crew provide ground units tactical leverage over today’s enemies with superior firepower, maneuverability and other key elements crucial to winning a war. When an aircraft goes down, those ground units are expected to return the favor by quickly and efficiently recovering their comrades.

Marines with Company B, 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, and Weapons Co., 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, participated in a Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel exercise here March 18, in preparation for an upcoming deployment with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit in Okinawa, Japan, later this year.

Staff Sgt. Justin Timbs, the chief instructor of the course and an Elizabethton, Tenn., native, said the Marines are simply applying the knowledge they learned aboard the Combat Center.

“We were in Twentynine Palms a couple weeks ago teaching the Marines some classes about the course, and now they’re applying the knowledge they gained through [practical application] exercises,” Timbs said.

During a TRAP mission, Marines are expected to enter a crash site, apply immediate medical attention to injured personnel and extract as quickly as possible. They are also taught to search for any classified or other security-sensitive materials the enemy could use to their advantage. Once Marines locate the downed pilots, they split into two teams, a recovery element and a security element.

Lance Cpl. Robert Arbelaez, an LAV crewman with Co. B., 3rd LAR, said the training is making him and fellow crewmen a more efficient team.

“It’s going really well so far,” said Arbelaez, a Dayton, Ohio, native. “We’ve been the main security element, and we got to do some pretty cool stuff out here.

“They said we’d be using the ‘crawl, walk, run’ approach to this training, but I feel like we skipped the walking part and took off on a dead sprint,” he said with a laugh.

For some Marines, the MEU will be their first deployment, and they are witnessing firsthand how quickly a situation can escalate. Each scenario in the TRAP course is designed to test the Marines’ decision-making skills and communication.

When the Marines feel they’ve got everything under control, I’ll toss in a few more enemy combatants, said Timbs about making each scenario more challenging.

 “We got a little disoriented out there, but we still knew what needed to be done,” said Pfc. Colin Barnett, a machine gunner with Weapons Co., 1st Bn., 7th Marines, and Easton, Md., native. “This whole company is full of new guys, and it’s good for us to come out here and learn a hell of a lot each day.

“I’m pretty Excited for the MEU. I can’t wait to travel and see the world,” he added.

The Marines are scheduled to complete the training evolution next week and continue to prepare for their upcoming deployment this summer.

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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms