Rare US defence force honour for Osprey crash recovery crews
MORE than 100 Australian Defence Force members who helped recover the wreck of the MV-22 Osprey after a triple-fatal crash off Shoalwater Bay have been awarded a rare honour.
Navy, Army and Air force personnel were awarded a Meritorious Unit Commendation by the head of the US Marine Corps in the Pacific, Lieutenant General David Berger, during his visit to the Royal Australian Navy amphibious ship, HMAS Adelaide, in Sydney.
The wreck of the US Marines MV-22B Osprey aircraft was recovered from 40m of water in Shoalwater Bay last year by the Royal Australian Navy's hydrographic ship the Melville and a clearance diver team.
The aircraft is believed to have struck trouble as it approached the transport ship USS Green Bay on Saturday, August 5.
The Osprey smashed into its deck and slid into the ocean, taking down 21 passengers and five crew members as it hit the water; 23 personnel on board were rescued, some taken to the Rockhampton Hospital.
The Marines killed were identified as Pilot Lt Benjamin Robert Cross from Maine, Corporal Nathan Ordway of Kansas and Ruben Velasco of La Puente, California.
The search-and-rescue shifted to a recovery effort about 3am on the Sunday following the crash.
Velasco had celebrated his 19th birthday only days before the crash.
Over the following fortnight, the Australians worked with US Marines and the US Navy to locate the aircraft 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 Osprey was towed to the Port of Townsville on September 2, 2017.
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 (based at HMAS Cairns), and to members of the Australian Mine Warfare and Clearance Diving Task Group.
Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon Marise Payne, said General Berger's decision to present this award in person is evidence of the importance of the operation and the efforts of ADF members to the Marine Corps.
"The United States Meritorious Unit Commendation is a great honour for our service members and the Australian public can be proud of what our people achieved,” Ms Payne said.
"The support we provided to the US Marine Corps is a testament to our relationship with the United States.
"The commendation praises the Australians' 'unrelenting perseverance and unfailing devotion to duty' and their actions are in the finest traditions of the ADF.”