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Massive search for missing Marine called off after 5 days in Sulu Sea near the Philippines

The USS Essex enters dry dock at the National Steel and Shipbuilding Company in 2013. (U.S. Navy photo by Senior Chief Mass Communication Specialist Joe Kane/Released)

A five-day, massive search and rescue operation for a missing Camp Pendleton Marine — spanning 13,000 square nautical miles of the Sulu Sea and nearby waters off the Philippines — has been called off, military officials announced Tuesday, Aug. 14.

The unidentified Marine was reported missing and assumed overboard Aug. 9. At that time the USS Essex was training in the Sulu Sea. The search included U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Philippine ships and aircraft and was aided by the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines, U.S. Coast Guard District 14 and Singapore Information Fusion Centre.

“Only after exhausting every possibility through persistent and thorough search efforts, we have concluded the at-sea search and rescue effort for our Marine,” said U.S. Navy Capt. Gerald Olin, commander, Amphibious Squadron One and the on-scene commander of the search and rescue operation. “We appreciate the continued support provided to us from the U.S. Embassy and Philippine Government.”

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Col. Chandler Nelms, commanding officer of the 13th MEU, praised the Marines and sailors who did the exhaustive search.

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“I am humbled by the teamwork and professionalism displayed by all involved to find our Marine,” Nelms said. “Our thoughts and prayers have been and will continue to be with our Marine’s family during this difficult time.”

The circumstances surrounding the incident are currently being investigated, said Capt. Diann Rosenfeld, a spokeswoman for the Camp Pendleton-based 13th MEU.

The 13th MEU departed on the USS Essex on July 10 from San Diego for a Western Pacific and Middle East deployment, as part of the Essex Amphibious Ready Group, the Pentagon confirmed last month.

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© 2018 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.