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Search Underway in Sulu Sea for Marine Missing from USS Essex

The Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) maneuvers into position to conduct a fueling-at-sea with Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Rushmore (LSD 47) during an amphibious squadron and Marine expeditionary unit (MEU) integration (PMINT) exercise. US Navy photo.

A search is ongoing in the Sulu Sea for a 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) Marine assigned to USS Essex (LHD-2) who has been missing for almost two days.

Since 9:40 a.m. local time Thursday — Wednesday evening in the U.S. — Navy and Marine Corps aircraft have run around-the-clock searches of the Sulu Sea and Surigao Strait for the Marine who is presumed overboard from Essex, the 13th MEU said in a statement. The search efforts are being assisted by the Philippine Coast Guard vessel.

“As we continue our search operation, we ask that you keep our Marine and the Marine’s family in your thoughts and prayers,” Col. Chandler Nelms, commanding officer of the 13th MEU, said in a statement. “We remain committed to searching for and finding our Marine.”

The Marine’s family has been notified of the search, but the Marine’s identity is not being released while the search is ongoing, according to a Navy statement. So far, the search has covered more than 3,000 square nautical miles.

When Essex departed San Diego in July, the Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) included amphibious transport dock USS Anchorage (LPD-23) and dock landing ship USS Rushmore (LSD-47). Also part of the Essex ARG/MEU also included the first deployment of a squadron of Marine F-35B Lighting II Joint Strike Fighters, from the Wake Island Avengers” of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211.

“It is an all-hands effort to find our missing Marine,” said U.S. Navy Capt. Gerald Olin, the commander of Amphibious Squadron One and the on-scene commander of the search and rescue operation. “All of our Sailors, Marines, and available assets aboard the USS Essex have been and will continue to be involved in this incredibly important search and rescue operation.”

The following is the complete release from the 13th MEU.

Search and rescue operations ongoing for missing Marine

For Immediate Release
Aug. 10, 2018

SULU SEA – A combined effort of U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, and Philippine ships and aircraft are currently searching for a Marine, assigned to the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) embarked aboard USS Essex (LHD 2). The Marine was reported missing while the ship was conducting routine operations in the Sulu Sea, August 9.

Essex reported a Marine overboard at 9:40 a.m. local time.

The ship’s crew responded promptly to the situation by launching a search and rescue operation.

“As we continue our search operation, we ask that you keep our Marine and the Marine’s family in your thoughts and prayers,” said Col. Chandler Nelms, Commanding Officer, 13th MEU. “We remain committed to searching for and finding our Marine.”

To date, multiple searches have been conducted inside the ship while embarked aircraft aboard the USS Essex conduct round-the-clock search and rescue operations within the Sulu Sea and Surigao Strait. In addition, U.S. Navy P-8 aircraft and Philippine Coast Guard vessels have expanded the search area. Together, the response has covered roughly 3,000 square nautical miles.

“It is an all-hands effort to find our missing Marine,” said U.S. Navy Capt. Gerald Olin, commander, Amphibious Squadron One and the on-scene commander of the search and rescue operation. “All of our Sailors, Marines, and available assets aboard the USS Essex have been and will continue to be involved in this incredibly important search and rescue operation.”

The Marine’s family has been notified, however, the name is being withheld while the search is ongoing.

  • Western

    By now, don’t we have the tech to incorporate an IR strobe or EPIRB device into belts of military personnel at sea?

    • NavySubNuke

      Sorry but that just sounds terribly uncomfortable to force sailors to wear something like that every hour of every day just in case they become one of 2 or 3 sailors who go over the side each year. The size and weight of a belt carried EPIRB device needed to make it detectable at a meaningful range would be a real drag. Not to mention all the false alarms whens sailors got doused with seawater during regular duties or forgot and put their belt in the washing machine.

      • Rocco

        Agreed except as I stated above

      • Ed L

        They make them ERIB’s about the size of a smartphone now. The cost is around 350 per unit. Example ACR ELECTRONICS
        AquaLink® View Personal Locator Beacon. I bought one for sailing. They are waterproof to about 30 feet. The question was That marine conscious after hitting the water?

      • Centaurus

        It’s a real drag to die too.

    • Rocco

      If the marine was on deck during flight operations all personnel are required to ware a life vest with dye marker & strobe light!! This has been normal practice on all ships for over 50 yrs now. Including underway replenishment!

    • Centaurus

      We do ! And why TF they aren’t passed around is a damn shame !
      Ya can buy that kit at any ski shop or hunting store, anywhere.

      • Secundius

        WE DO! By Whom? The Smallest I’ve seen so far is made by Ocean Signal and is approximately the Same Size as a Mini Maglight (134mm x 38mm x 27mm), 178mm with antenna. And sells for ~$379.00 USD each…

        • Centaurus

          You’re not looking hard enough. I found one at Wallyworld for $9.95. , in the children’s section. So don’t feign ignorance. Though ~$379 USD would be cheaper than having a Gov’t sub-subcontractor make one for the Navy for $10,000 in batches of 10 !

          • Centaurus

            Or, see Ed L’s comment further down.

          • Secundius

            The one at Wallyworld was it Functionable or “My First ERIRB by Fisher-Price”. Great Call make an PLB for ~$200.00 USD that uses both Cell and Satellite Tracking/Location and Communications, and Waterproof to ~30-feet for ~30-minutes. I have one, but its not Waterproof and Patteries are good for ~4-days in Stand-By Mode

  • proudrino

    I’ve never understood why comments are open for stories like this. What, really, is there to say?

    • Centaurus

      So geniuses like you are confounded by them !

  • johnbull

    At this point we have to assume he’s lost. Condolences to the family. My hat’s off to those who do the dangerous work for us.