The United States Marine Corps has awarded a rare honour to 107 Australian Defence Force members who helped recover a US Marine aircraft off the north Queensland coast late last year.
Navy, Army and Airforce personnel have been given a Meritorious Unit Commendation by the head of the US Marine Corps in the Pacific, Lieutenant General David Berger. The ceremony has taken place on the Royal Australian Navy amphibious ship, HMAS Adelaide, at Fleet Base East in Sydney.
The ADF was called into action when the US Marine MV-22 Osprey crashed into the Coral Sea near Rockhampton on 6 August 2017. The aircraft, carrying 26 American service members, crashed and sank, killing a pilot and two other US Marines. Over the following fortnight, the Australians worked with US Marines and the US Navy to locate the aircraft on the seabed and support the recovery operation.
A total of 14 dives were conducted on the Osprey by an Australian Navy Dive team in sometimes difficult conditions. The commendation praises the Australians’ “unrelenting perseverance and unfailing devotion to duty.”
Petty Officer Kevin Paul was one of the Navy clearance divers who took part in the recovery effort.
“We all knew this would be a tough and important job when word came through of the accident,” Petty Officer Paul said.
“All the guys who were there, from junior sailors right through to our diving officer, felt it was a privilege and honour to find and recover the family members so they could be laid to rest at home.”
The commendation has been presented to members of Maritime Operations, Australian Clearance Diving Team One, Australian Mine Warfare Team Sixteen (HMAS Waterhen in Sydney), Navy Hydrographic Ship crew Blue embarked in HMAS Melville (HMAS Cairns), and to members of the Australian Mine Warfare and Clearance Diving Task Group.
Imagery available at http://images.navy.gov.au/S20180098.