DOGANBEY, Turkey -- On the morning of Oct. 18, it took Hospitalman Jacob Longoria about 15 minutes to eat breakfast.
That afternoon, it took just four minutes for Longoria and other members of the Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel (TRAP) team to insert into a hostile area and rescue two downed pilots.
Though the mission was only a training evolution held during NATO exercise Destined Glory 2000, there was nothing simulated about the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit
(Special Operations Capable) TRAP team's speed.
The goal of most TRAP missions is simple: rescue the pilots, crew, passengers and many times, recover the aircraft. In this scenario, two pilots were down in enemy territory. In their first opportunity to perform a TRAP since their deployment began 2ndLt. Robert Dinero's men were sent in.
"We spent less than four minutes on the deck, and that's exactly how you want it to happen," said Dinero, TRAP team commander. "In the real thing, you could be in a hostile and uncertain environment. The shorter amount of time you spend on the deck and in those surroundings, the better."
Some of that expedience is owed to Hospitalman Longoria, the team's primary Corpsman, and his partner HM3 Jason Jeffries. Once a TRAP team establishes security and locates the pilots or crew, it is the Corpsmen's job to assess any injuries. In just seconds, Sailors like 24-year old Longoria must determine if those inured can be transported immediately, or if they need on-scene treatment before being moved.
In the recent scenario, the Marines who acted as the downed pilots were given mock injuries. Based on their examination, Longoria and Jeffries told Dinero the men could be moved instantly.
"The first thing you're looking for is damage to the spine or skull," said Longoria, a Houston native. "If we're in enemy territory or taking fire, we obviously do not have a lot of time. We make our call and go. It's life over limb."
Though the Houston native said he is confident in his ability to make those split decisions.
"Any time you are dealing with someone's life, that's a major responsibility," he said. "If that responsibility does not weigh heavily on you, then you need to look at yourself as a Corpsman. You have to know what you're doing."
In addition to the Corpsmen's performance, Dinero said the MEU's Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 264 provided the aerial support that made their mission possible. A CH-53E Super Stallion from the squadron, operating in its first exercise since being cleared for flight after a Marine Corps-wide grounding of the aircraft, provided transportation for the team.
"The support from (HMM-264) was awesome," said Dinero "They got us within a few hundred yards of the pilots. So we were right there when the aircraft landed."
Though his team performed well in their four-minute mission, Dinero said he would like to give his Marines and Sailors more training.
"I think getting a chance to train for this is important," said Dinero. "A lot of the TRAP team's success relies on muscle memory. You have to be able to do it with your eyes closed. I think my guys showed some good muscle memory on this mission. This doesn't mean we can stop training, it just means we're where we're suppose to be. But we have to train to stay there."