With a history as complex and lengthy as that of the United States Armed Forces, it sounds almost illogical to think that, one day, it would possible to locate and repatriate each member of the military who still remains unaccounted for. In fact, between the five branches of the US Armed Forces (the Air Force, the Army, the Coast Guard, the Marine Corp and the Navy), there are still tens of thousands of men unaccounted for, many of whom, unfortunately, will likely never be found.
And yet, the team at GEaR, or Global Exploration and Recovery, remains hopeful, and even optimistic, that one day, they will be able to bring home all of the missing men from the United States Coast Guard. This week, DMOS spoke with John Bradley and Frank Marley, president and vice-president of GEaR, a non-profit organization made up of a small team of scientists, mountain experts and researchers, all with a goal to bring home missing service members from around the world.
“A lot of it is about the families”, Frank says, explaining the importance of their current mission in Greenland to find three servicemen who crashed their plane and were frozen in the ice more than 70 years ago. “The sister of the pilot is still living, the son of the radioman is still living, and the army corporal is still taught about in the schools of his hometown in Wisconsin”, he continues. Even more, however, finding these men and bringing them home would be a massive accomplishment, not only for GEaR and the United States as a whole, but especially for the US Coast Guard. “Two of the three in the plane are the last two Coast Guard men in history that are unaccounted for”, Frank explains, “And this is the only branch of the Armed Forces where it would be possible and, actually, probable, to have all men accounted for and returned home”.
The work is tedious and often unrewarding, turning up no conclusive results since the initiation of the search in 2010. However, the team remains far from discouraged, as they continue to uncover more evidence that the servicemen are nearby, assisted by their DMOS Stealth Shovel. “GEaR has a light-and-fast approach”, Frank explains, “which is equated to being able to carry very little and bring in very little, but do a lot with what we have. This allows us to do a lot of work very efficiently and cost-effectively”. This also explains the need for a tool like the Stealth Shovel, as it is lightweight, compact and, of course, efficient.
But the need for such a limited budget and so few resources is only temporary. “We plan to work alongside anthropologists and other professionals in the final, delicate steps of recovery and repatriation”, John says. The team is just waiting for the discovery of something definitive. “We feel we’re on the cusp of things”, Frank says, “and we will work with the Coast Guard Headquarters, and also the Department of Defense. We’ve worked with them directly in the past and we still continue to share information back and forth”. The men explain that, once there is conclusive evidence that they have located the three servicemen, the Department of Defense will take on a greater role, bring in their anthropologists and complete the recovery.
With such focus on the familial and historical importance of uncovering the three servicemen and their wrecked plane, it would be easy to forget the ecological value of such a project. GEaR, however, puts extra emphasis on the environmental influence of their actions, making conscious decisions to leave the land they explore in better shape than when they arrived. “We need to protect our environment and its accessibility for future generations”, John says. “It’s important to understand our nation’s history and our impact around the world. We can be a part of the environmental restoration of these areas by renewing and restoring degraded, damaged, or destroyed ecosystems and habitats by active human intervention and action”. The GEaR team holds themselves to these standards on a daily basis, whether it be through big projects, like removing and recycling decaying oil barrels from a south-eastern island in Greenland (read more about that here), or through simple tasks, such as returning their surroundings back to the way they were, often with the help of a DMOS Shovel. Frank says, “On a previous mission, someone had left tent sites that were ringed with rocks to anchor tents. In the evening I dismantled these to return the area back to its natural state and used the Stealth Shovel to clear snow and ice. Without the shovel, it wouldn’t have been possible”.
The team has used the Stealth Shovel in a number of other ways as well, including prying rocks and boulders out of the ground, prepping their campsites, chipping ice, engaging in Leave No Trace practices, collecting snow for drinking water, and even manufacturing their own siphon from the telescoping shaft.
“The DMOS shovels are superior to other shovels in their robust construction”, Frank says. “I was initially very skeptical on the blade because there were no welded seams, but there was no structural damage at all, save for a few scrapes”. John praises the tools as well, emphasizing their compactness, durability, resourcefulness, and, above all, the fact that they are designed and made in the USA. “It was a piece of equipment that we didn’t know we needed”, Frank adds. “Had we not had it, we wouldn’t have been able to do all of the things that we did.
As the GEaR team continues on their search for the two missing Coast Guard men and the army corporal, they aim to follow in the symbolism of their mascot and logo, the raven. “At GEaR we aspire to embody the creativity, vision and adaptability of ravens found around the world”, John explains. “Their characteristics represent the approach we take to our work. They are wily problem solvers and demonstrate self-awareness”. Plus, Frank explains, ravens are considered to be some of the most intelligent animals in the animal kingdom, and can therefore be very creative with very little. He says, “We don’t have the money to do the things we need, so we have have to figure out a way to do the same things for cheap, and get the job done”.
Not to mention, the GEaR team encounters ravens on an almost daily basis. “The raven is very prominent in the environment where we thrive” Frank tells DMOS. “They’re all over Greenland and Alaska, and we're an Alaska-based nonprofit”. Ravens are smart and they are tricky, even requiring the team to take extra precautions with their equipment, to prevent the ravens from stealing their tools or rummaging through their belongings.
But despite these occasional unpleasant encounters with a raven, the bird still fits as the ideal symbol for GEaR and all they wish to achieve in Greenland with their Stealth Shovel. “A conspiracy is a group of ravens”, John describes. “DMOS is a product ‘born’ for the terrain and made for the people who live, work and pursue adventures. DMOS is our tool. A raven can construct a tool and that’s what DMOS is doing for GEaR. Welcome to the conspiracy!”