Search and Rescue: U.S. and Japanese Forces Work Together

29 Jun 2020 | Lance Cpl. Tyler Harmon 1st Marine Aircraft Wing

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan- U.S. Marines and Japanese Airmen participated in a combined search and rescue exercise at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, June 29, 2020. Service members with Marine Aircraft Group 12, Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 242 and Japan Maritime Self Defense Force honed their skills to improve overall coordination between units in the event of a real-world search and rescue event.
The combined search and rescue exercise provided realistic training to U.S. Marines and Japanese Airmen, further strengthening capabilities and mutual understanding of participating units.
Capt. Russel Davis, MAG-12 aviation safety officer, coordinated with Western Air Defense Force (WADF) to execute the search and rescue exercise. It consisted of two primary components – an on-scene commander exercise June 25 and pickup exercise June 29, 2020.
“The [on-scene] commander is the first person on scene, it could be another capable asset who is searching for the downed aviator, either over land or over water,” said Davis. “They are going to get a coordinate or a location for that downed aviator, and then report that to the air traffic controller agency.”
Following the on-scene commander exercise, Japanese Airmen from Nyutabaru Air Rescue Squadron (Kyunantai) flew to MCAS Iwakuni to participate in the pickup exercise, retrieving two Marine aviators from the water near the air station.
“Training exercises like these increase [our] mission readiness by identifying deficiencies in the search and rescue asset process.” said U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Yohan Bae, an F/A-18D pilot with Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA-AW) 242, who participated in the exercise. “It allows aircrew, and search and rescue personnel to reevaluate and improve the process overall. Emergencies can occur at any time of the day in any weather conditions; ensuring readiness and proficiency allows search and rescue assets to rapidly respond to emergencies and allows aircrew to be rescued in a shorter window.”
The participants were equipped with the standard aviation survival equipment that naval aviators have in their inventory. U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Juliette Ruff, MAG-12 aeromedical safety officer, coordinated with the naval aviators to ensure proper safety mitigations are in place and conducted familiarization training of equipment during the exercise.
From a safety perspective, one of the things we look at is the type of gear naval aviators wear, especially the gear that they don’t constantly interact with, said Ruff. This type of realistic exercise allows these individuals to actually experience the pieces of gear they have and obtain the confidence that their gear is functioning correctly.
The exercise required months of precise coordination and planning with participating units. It also focused on equipment familiarity by training aircrew to recognize and understand their emergency equipment, and to help WADF personnel understand what they are looking for in a search and rescue scenario.