AL ASAD, IRAQ - -- Men and women enlist in the Marine Corps with a few guarantees. The best military training money can buy, a paycheck twice a month and a guaranteed job field of their choice. But for the Marines of the Tactical Removal of Aircraft Personnel platoon, daily life is much different than what they signed up for.
In preparation for the transfer of authority from Regimental Combat Team 7(RCT-7), the RCT-2 TRAP platoon worked to sharpen their skills during a recent training exercise.
“If a bird goes down, we’re the first responders,” said Sgt. Jason R. Carmody, the TRAP platoon noncommissioned officer in charge. “It’s our responsibility to provide security for and protect the pilot from the enemy.”
As the only TRAP platoon in western Al Anbar, a region of more than 30,000 square miles, speed is of the utmost importance.
From the moment a mission comes down the pipe, the TRAP platoon can assemble, get to the flight-line and be airborne in a matter of minutes, explained Carmody, a Warwick, R.I., native.
Upon landing at the crash site, the platoon immediately forms a circle for all around security. In the middle of the formation is the search team, a designated group of Marines and sailors who will make initial contact with the helicopter.
“We form an additional 360 around the downed bird to defend it from any hostile ambush,” explained Pfc. Justin J. Corriveau, a squad automatic weapon gunner with the TRAP platoon’s search team.
Like the majority of its members, Corriveau was nominated by his work section to join the ranks of the TRAP platoon.
“Basically, it’s like being a grunt for a year,” said Corriveau, a tactical network specialist by trade. “We’re learning how to clear rooms, deal with detainees, and hand-to-hand combat.”
Carmody, an infantryman on his fourth deployment to Iraq, has been tasked with showing these Marines and Sailors the “grunt” side-of-the-house. As always, safety is paramount.
“It’s extremely important for everyone to be on the same wavelength,” Carmody said. “Dismount a bird the wrong way and you’ll run right into the rotor. Out here, attention to detail takes on a whole new meaning.”
Once the search team makes contact with the downed helicopter, the platoon’s two corpsmen are called over to perform a casualty assessment on the pilot.
“If the pilot can walk, he’s as an ambulatory case,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Martin P. Mason, a corpsman with RCT-2’s TRAP platoon. “But if he’s unconscious or unable to move, he’s classified as a litter case and will require immediate medical attention.”
Mason, who spent two years working at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., volunteered to deploy with RCT-2. Not only is this his first combat tour, it’s also his first opportunity to work directly with Marines.
“To me, a corpsman’s true calling is on the front lines, saving Marines’ lives,” said Mason, a Ruby, S.C., native. “This is something I’ve wanted to do since first enlisting. I’m truly honored to be serving with my brothers-in-arms.”
After the pilot has been evacuated to the landing zone, and all sensitive material has been removed from the helicopter, the air officer calls for helicopter transport back to base.
“Not too often does a bird go down,” Carmody said. “By cross-training our Marines as infantrymen, we can supplement other units in need of additional support. But, if it does happen, we have the training to save Marines’ lives.”
Even though Corriveau, like most of his fellow Marines, was “handpicked” for the TRAP platoon, don’t expect to hear any complaints.
“Not that it wouldn’t be nice to actually do my job, but at the same time, I’ve got no problem doing what the Marine Corps needs me to do,” said Corriveau, a Bethany, Okla., native. “I know it’ll be a great experience.”