Navy SEALs trainee dies in night training

by Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 03 2014 08:31 PM | Updated as of Oct 04 2014 05:59 AM

MANILA (UPDATED) - After a 2-day search, the lifeless body of Navy officer Ensign Jan Clet Edward Labalan was found floating in Manila Bay, 3 nautical miles from the Philippine Navy SEALs headquarters at Sangley Point, Cavite.

Labalan, a graduate of the Philippine Military Class of 2013, applied for the Navy SEALs in June. He endured intensely rigorous and difficult training under one of the Armed Forces of the Philippines' most elite units.

The Navy SEALs (short for sea, air, and land) are sometimes called "the complete soldiers." They are trained in covert military insertions on all fronts and terrains.

They are capable of conducting search and destroy operations, reconnaissance missions, and enemy demolition, even underwater demolitions.

Initial information reveals that at around 7 p.m. on September 30, Labalan and 32 other trainees underwent a "night reconnaissance evolution," a training exercise in the dark that requires them to swim covertly from a ship to the shore.

Navy SEALs are known for swimming long distances for long periods of time.

Col. Edgard Arevalo, the Navy spokesperson, said the trainees were already swimming when Labalan's training buddy heard him shout, "Lambat! lambat! (there's a net, there's net)," as a warning to him and other swimmers.

Labalan's training buddy himself got snagged in the fishing net, and lost one fin. He also lost sight of Labalan.

This prompted Labalan's training buddy to signal to surrounding trainors that something was wrong.

The training exercise was suspended, all trainors and swimmers began searching for Labalan, but he was no longer there.

A full search and rescue operation was immediately launched and continued throughout the night, involving the 7 rubber boats of the trainors, 2 rigid hull inflatable boats, and 2 more patrol boats.

The following morning, the search was reinforced by a multipurpose attack craft and a helicopter. Labalan's classmates joined in on the search that extended to the waters of Naic, Tanza, Bataan, and Corregidor.

The family was notified and taken 1 mile offshore, where the night recon training took place.

The family and Navy officers offered prayers in order to find Labalan.

At around 3 p.m. Friday, October 3, Labalan's body was found at the Manila Bay anchorage area, three nautical miles from his training grounds.

Scene of the crime operatives are now on site to investigate the cause of Labalan's death.

Rear Admiral Jesus Millan, the Navy flag officer in command, has ordered an inquiry into the incident, and is committed to hold accountable any personnel should it be proven that there was negligence involved.

Labalan's remains are now with his family, and will be given full military honors as a junior officer who died in the conduct of his duties.