- The Washington Times - Friday, August 10, 2018

American and Philippine forces are scouring the waters in the Pacific for a lost Marine, reported missing during joint military drills of the Philippines‘ southwest coastline, officials at Marine Corps headquarters said Friday.

The Marine, whose identity is being withheld, was attached to the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit aboard the amphibious warship USS Essex when he was reported missing. The Essex was in the midst of “conducting routine operations” in the Sulu Sea and Suriago Straits when the ship’s crew and Marine Corps units aboard the vessel were notified of the missing Marine early Thursday morning, unit spokesperson Capt. Diann Rosenfeld said in a statement Friday.

U.S. Navy crew members and members of the missing Marine’s unit have conducted expensive searches of the Essex, while calling in the Philippine Coast Guard to assist in the search at sea. Service officials have also deployed the Navy’s P-8 Poseidon intelligence and surveillance aircraft as part of the search and rescue effort. “Together, the response has covered roughly 3,000 square nautical miles,” said Capt. Rosenfeld.

“It is an all-hands effort to find our missing Marine,” said U.S. Navy Capt. Gerald Olin, commander of Amphibious Squadron One and the officer in charge of the search mission. “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,” he said in the same statement Friday.

Reports of the missing Marine come as the service announced plans to ramp up operations in the Philippines. Service leaders and Pentagon officials have reportedly set aside over $5 million to finance efforts to “advise, plan and execute missions in support of Philippine counterterror operations,” Marine Corps Times reports.

The figure, included in the Defense Department’s budget blueprint for the coming fiscal year, represented a three-fold increase in those operations, compared to last year.

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