A total of 159 naval officers, including 127 Navy SEAL members, were given a hero’s welcome upon their arrival at the U-tapao airbase in Sattahip naval base, Chon Buri province, this afternoon.
They were flown out of Chiang Rai this morning after the end of the 17-day high-risk rescue operation on Tuesday night to bring all the 13 survivors out of the flooded Tham Luang cave in Mae Sai district.
A Royal Thai Navy brass band played marching music as the RTN’s jet touched down at U-tap airbase. RTN Commander-in-Chief Admiral Naris Prathumsuwan was at the plane side to welcome the 159 returnees.
Hundreds of family members and admirers were also at the military airbase which is normally off-limits to outsiders to give them a warm and cheering welcome.
After their arrival, all the 159 naval officers will have to go through medical checks and screening process before they return to their original units.
The Navy SEALs and their international divers played a crucial role in extracting the 13 survivors out of the flooded cave – four on Sunday night, another four the following day and the last five on Tuesday.
Others who also played an equally important role in the rescue efforts included those who drained water out of the cave, those who blocked water from getting into the cave and those who scoured the mountains to search for alternative routes into the cave.