PHL, US ships, aircraft search for missing American Marines in Sulu Sea

Philippines, United States Navy and Marines ships and aircraft have initiated search and rescue operations in Sulu Sea for a missing member of US 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) assigned to US Navy Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2).

“The Marine was reported missing while the ship was conducting routine operations in the Sulu Sea, August 9,” the US Navy said. “Essex reported a Marine overboard at 9:40 a.m. local time.”

“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.”

Since the start of search and rescue operations, 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.

The US Navy added that US Navy P-8 aircraft and Philippine Coast Guard vessels have expanded the search area covering 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.”