In August 2017, Australian Clearance Diving Team-1 was called on to recover three missing marines from the wreck of a United States Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey, which was ditched in 60 metres of water near Rockhampton.
Over multiple days, Leading Seaman Clearance Diver Steven Palu worked to recover the remains from the wreckage, his efforts being recognised with a Conspicuous Service Medal in this year's Australia Day honours list.
The citation of his award tells of how Leading Seaman Palu, “suffering from the debilitating effects of the challenging environment”, demonstrated courage, determination and dedication to duty.
Upon locating the wreckage, his “refusal to release the body of the marine” in the arduous conditions ensured the successful recovery of one of the marines for return to a grieving family.
“We faced and overcame all the challenges presented during that deep dive. We had a job – we got it done,” he said.
"I didn’t do it alone. At that depth with periods of no visibility, my dive partner was tremendous.
In recent history, no Australian clearance diver had recovered human remains from a ditched aircraft at that depth.
“The ultimate truth here is that three marines were lost,” Leading Seaman Palu said.
“Their loss will never be forgotten by me or the members of the clearance diving branch.
“To be a firsthand witness just shows how easily life can perish and how precious it really is.”
Leading Seaman Palu dedicated the award to his wife and children.
“Without their support I could not even get out and do the job to the best of my abilities,” he said.
“It’s as much for me and my peers as for my family.”