CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
U.S. Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s air Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel platoon are staged in their berthing as “TRAP alert 120” is sounded over the ship’s intercom. Lance Cpl. Emil-Gregory Gallo III knows this means he has two hours until his unit will be launched from the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) in an MV-22 Osprey to conduct a TRAP mission.
Gallo begins to maneuver down the ladder wells to the hangar bay with his M4 carbine and 45 pounds of gear in tow as “Alert 60” is sounded by the Tactical Action Officer. The “TRAP alert 30” call is blasted over the intercom while Gallo finishes applying a generous amount of camouflage paint to his face as he waits on the flight deck ramp. “Launch the TRAP” is heard throughout the ship and the platoon-sized element is quickly loaded into the aircraft. Gallo double checks his floatation device, and the Osprey buzzes away from the vessel to find the downed pilot and aircraft.
One of the many skillsets the MEU brings to the operational table is the ability to perform a TRAP mission. When forward deployed, MEUs provide the geographic combatant commander with an expeditionary TRAP force.
“In an air TRAP our mission is to rescue any downed pilots and sensitive material,” said 1st Lt. Zackery Byrd, air TRAP commander. “TRAP provides an internal asset for the MEU to recover aircraft personnel as well as provide our capabilities to other units in the geographical area we operate.”
An air TRAP involves a platoon-sized element boarding an MV-22 Osprey and departing from the USS Bataan. The aircraft lands near the area of the downed pilot, half of the platoon provides security while the search team locates the pilot. Once the pilot is located, the search team has the ability to provide medical attention to the downed pilot. The search team transports the personnel back to the landing zone and then to the USS Bataan for follow-on care.
“My job is to locate the pilot as quickly as possible,” said Gallo, search element point man. “The faster we can get in and out, the more successful the mission is.”
The challenges of an air TRAP is everyone being ready for the mission and multiple assets converging on one, single location.
“The key is communication of significant events that occur, so everyone can have the same level of situational awareness,” said Byrd. “If we do not have the process wired tight to meet the time criteria it could be deadly on the ground, and we could fail the mission.”
Composite Training Unit Exercise allows the air TRAP platoon to train at the highest level possible before a future deployment.
“We have our processes and alert progression down, and now it is time to get to varsity level with this training,” said Byrd.