U.S. Pacific Command has dispatched 36 service members from Okinawa to Thailand to assist with efforts to rescue 12 boys from a Thai soccer team and their coach, who have been trapped in a cave complex since June 23, a Pentagon spokesman told Task & Purpose.
The troops include a search and rescue team, a survival expert, and support personnel who were deployed after the Royal Thai government requested U.S. assistance on June 26, said Army Lt. Col. David Eastburn.
U.S. military assets in Thailand responded to the scene immediately, but they did not have the right gear for the mission, prompting PACOM to send the search and rescue team, which arrived on Thailand on June 28, Eastburn told Task & Purpose.
Two MC-130s from Okinawa transported the search and rescue personnel to Thailand, Eastburn said on Tuesday. The planes and support personnel initially remained in U-Tapao, Thailand after dropping off the search and rescue team. It was not clear on Tuesday if they had returned to Okinawa.
Airmen with the 353rd Special Operations Group and the 31st Rescue Squadron, both stationed at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, are among the U.S. troops helping with the rescue efforts, according to the 18th Wing.
"The American people join Thais in celebrating the dramatic discovery of the soccer team and their coach in Tham Luang Cave," said U.S. Ambassador to Thailand Glyn T. Davies in a statement. "We will continue to support Thai authorities in their relentless efforts to bring the 12 players and their coach safely out of the cave and reunite them with their families."
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