In the days and weeks to come, we're bound to learn more about the incredible and heroic rescue of all 12 members of a Thai soccer team and their coach who were trapped in a cave. One understated detail: U.S. troops participated early on in the rescue operation, lending support to a situation that at times seemed all but impossible.
The 12 boys of the Wild Boars soccer team and their coach entered the Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai province on June 23, only to become trapped by rising waters inside the cave system. Ten days later, an international rescue team of cave experts and Thai military personnel manage to reach the boys and begin a process of evacuating them along a long and difficult six-hour route.
On June 28, the U.S. military’s Indo-Pacific Command deployed 36 personnel based in nearby Okinawa, including airmen from 353rd Special Operations Group and the 31st Rescue Squadron. According to Military.com, they joined seven other personnel, including a member of Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group Thailand.
On July 6, shortly after the first of the boys emerged from the cave system, Pentagon spokesman Colonel Rob Manning explained U.S. personnel had “staged equipment and prepared the first three chambers of the cave system for safe passage,” he said. “They are assisting in transporting the evacuees through the final chambers of the cave system, and are providing medical personnel and other technical assistance to the rescue efforts.”
The U.S. sent a search and rescue team to assist with the #ThailandCaveRescue. The men and women of the 353rd Special Operations Group have been directly supporting this international mission for almost two weeks. pic.twitter.com/drr5rP5ugk- USSOCOM (@USSOCOM) July 10, 2018
The Pentagon downplayed the role of U.S. troops, releasing little information about them until the boys and their coach began emerging from the cave system. The Defense Visual Information Distribution Service, or DVIDS, has no photos of U.S troops involved in the rescue. U.S. Special Operations Command released photos on its Twitter feed only after all of the trapped individuals were rescued.
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