Search Underway for Marine Who Went Overboard Near the Philippines

Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) simulates a strait transit as part of Dawn Blitz 2017. (U. S. Navy photo/Donavan K. Patubo)
Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) simulates a strait transit as part of Dawn Blitz 2017. (U. S. Navy photo/Donavan K. Patubo)

An all-hands effort is underway to find a Marine believed to have gone overboard Wednesday during routine operations off the coast of the Philippines.

The Marine, who was aboard the amphibious assault ship Essex with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, was reported overboard at 9:40 a.m. The incident occurred in the Sulu Sea, according to a Marine Corps news release.

The Marine's family has been notified, but the service is withholding his or her identification while the search is ongoing.

The ship's crew immediately responded to the situation by launching a search-and-rescue operation. Navy, Marine Corps and Philippine ships and aircraft are all involved in the search, which will continue "until every option has been exhausted," according to a post on the 13th MEU's Facebook page.

"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, the MEU's commanding officer, said in a statement. "We remain committed to searching for and finding our Marine."

Multiple searches have been conducted aboard the ship to locate the missing Marine as round-the-clock rescue operations continue in the Sulu Sea and Surigao Strait, according to the news release. Navy P-8 Poseidon 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," Navy Capt. Gerald Olin, head of Amphibious Squadron One and commander of the search-and-rescue operation, said in a statement. "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 Essex Amphibious Ready Group deployed last month from San Diego with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, becoming the first ARG to deploy from the continental United States with Marine Corps F-35B Joint Strike Fighters aboard. The Essex is en route to the U.S. 5th Fleet, where the Marines’ new 5th-generation fighter may participate in combat operations in the Middle East for the first time.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @ginaaharkins.

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