View Full Version : 31st MEU Marines rescue, evacuate rescuers

02-23-06, 07:00 AM
31st MEU Marines rescue, evacuate rescuers
31st MEU
Story by Capt. Burrell D. Parmer

SOUTHERN LEYTE, Philippines (Feb. 23, 2006) -- Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, Joint Task Force Balikatan, used two CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters to rescue nine Taiwanese rescuers who were trapped in the landslide disaster area here, this morning.

Rescue teams from the U.S., Taiwan, Malaysia, Philippines, and Spain were conducting search and rescue operations at two sites; one that was the reported location of the elementary school which was in session when the landslide occurred Feb. 17.

Seven Taiwanese rescue members became trapped in the deep mud while attempting to retrieve a body. The radio operators with the Marines and the Taiwanese contacted their respective operation centers, which immediately notified Philippine Army Maj. Gen. Bonifacio Ramos, ground commander for the search and rescue effort. Ramos quickly ordered a full evacuation of all search and rescue sites. He then requested assistance from the U.S. Marines that had two Sea Knights helicopters unloading relief supplies.

Within minutes, the two Sea Knights were in the air and traveling to the sites. One CH-46E located the seven-trapped rescuers.

The pilots of the Sea Knight carefully landed the aircraft on the dangerously muddy surface and the two crew chiefs opened the rear hatch.

First Lieutenant Rian P. Iglesias, the executive officer of Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment was onboard the Sea Knight when it took off to evacuate the sites.

"I don't know how the pilots landed the helicopter, but as we began to rescue the seven Taiwanese, the aircraft began to sink slowly in the mud," said Iglesias, a 28-year-old Jackson, N.J. native.

According to Iglesias, the Taiwanese are brave men and are dedicated to their mission even in the face of danger.

"They didn't want to leave the body behind, we threw them a cargo strap but they wouldn't take it," said Iglesias. "They tied the cargo strap around the body and we pulled it in first. Then we pulled each of the team up into the aircraft."

From 11 a.m. to noon, the Marine pilots evacuated 152 rescue members and a K9 unit.

On one of the last flights of evacuation, the second Sea Knight rescued two more Taiwanese that were trapped in the deep mud.

The CH-46E piloted by Lt. Col. Kevin H. Wild, commanding officer of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 262 (Reinforced) had to hover above the two Taiwanese in order to extract them. A lifeline was descended down and the two Taiwanese were airlifted to safety.

As of 4 p.m., all search and rescue operations have been suspended until further notice.

The 31st MEU is deployed here along with the Sasebo Forward Deployed Amphibious Ready Group at the request of the Philippine government to render humanitarian assistance and disaster relief for thousands of Filipinos who were affected by the disastrous landside.