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Marines with 88 mm mortar platoon 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), I Marine Expeditionary Force, maintain a 180 degree security perimeter before boarding a CH-53E "Super Stallion" belonging to Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 165 (Reinforced) while conducting tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel (TRAP) training aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, March 12. The Marines will share responsibility as a mortar and TRAP platoon during deployment. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Christopher O'Quin) (Released)

Photo by Cpl. Christopher O'Quin

'It’s a TRAP!' HMM-165 trains to recover downed air crew

12 Mar 2010 | Cpl. Christopher O'Quin

A Marine lies under the shade of an oak tree, immobilized by injuries caused when his aircraft crashed.

He waits for a CH-53E “Super Stallion” after giving the Marines coordinates and information necessary for his escape. Moments later, pilots land the Super Stallion and a team of Marines rush to his aid.

Had this been a real scenario, the Marines of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 165 (Reinforced) and 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), I Marine Expeditionary Force, could execute a tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel (TRAP), during their upcoming deployment aboard ship.

A TRAP is a mission performed by an assigned briefed air crew for the specific purpose of the recovering personnel, equipment or aircraft when the tactical situation prevents search and rescue personnel from responding, and when survivors and their locations are confirmed. When an aircraft crashes, Marine pilots fly to the site to retrieve the downed personnel. The training they conducted will prepare them for these situations.

“Today was all about repetitiveness in training,” said Capt. Charles D. Werner, a pilot with the squadron. “We had been working with these Marines for a while. It definitely helped us further reinforce the fundamentals with this platoon. Maintaining proficiency with the training will make conducting a TRAP all that much more fluid when we deploy.”

Marines from 1/4, 88-mm mortar platoon, trained for the past few months to operate as a TRAP platoon on the deployment. A TRAP platoon’s mission is to travel with the aircraft, conduct the recovery, provide security, and retrieve the downed air crew and aircraft components.

“It’s been an interesting process because it’s something that Marines don’t typically do every day,” said 1st Lt. Rodney Adams, the platoon commander. “But it’s definitely been a steep learning curve that the Marines have excelled at. It’s been an excellent training evolution and the support has been great, and we’ve got everything we’ve wanted as far as the TRAP objectives go.”

The Marines performed 360 and 180-degree perimeter security, and as the morning passed, they threw smoke grenades to signal the Super Stallion for pick up. With each landing and drop off, the Marines practiced boarding and exiting the helicopter in a fast and efficient way.

“It’s a bittersweet mission,” said Adams. “It motivates the Marines and its something for us to do outside the box of our [military occupational specialty], but we hope it never has to get done in real life.”

The crew chiefs aboard the helicopter ensured the Marines boarded and exited safely while monitoring the aircraft’s status.

“It was a good flight, no problems at all, and I learned a lot from the training,” said Cpl. James R. Gast, a crew chief with the squadron. “I would say external lifts are the hardest mission we do, but TRAP blows it out of the water because there’s so much going on at the same time with all the coordinating with pilots, the grunts and the guys on the ground.”

The day’s training culminated in a TRAP scenario with a Marine acting as a downed AV-8B “Harrier II” pilot.

“In a real scenario, a pilot would give the air crew coordinates and keep in contact with the TRAP team,” said Lance Cpl. Joseph Bayless, a mortarman with the platoon. “I’m the simulated crash victim that the Marines will have to identify and recover.”

After carefully loading Bayless onto a stretcher, the Marines finish their training for the day, one step closer to finishing their pre-deployment training.

While a pilot’s downed aircraft will not bring them to safety, these Marines can bring them home whenever they call for help.


3rd Marine Aircraft Wing