Air National Guardsmen from the 129th Rescue Wing successfully completed a complex, overwater rescue of an injured ship hand from a Marshall Islands flagged merchant vessel approximately 300 miles off the coast of Mexico at noon Nov, 29.
The 129th Rescue Wing received a call from the U.S. Coast Guard on Nov. 26, concerning an injured ship hand aboard the cargo vessel , Cary Rickmers. The ship hand had suffered a serious head injury requiring treatment beyond the capabilities of the vessel's medical staff. Due to the vessel's remote location in the Pacific Ocean and the immediate need for medical care, the 129th RQW accepted the mission.
An HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopter, accompanied by a MC-130P Combat Shadow refueling aircraft, departed Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, in the morning and flew to the merchant vessel's location in the East Pacific Ocean.
The 129th RQW's Guardian Angel pararescuemen boarded the vessel via hoist and prepared the patient for recovery. He was treated aboard the helicopter during its two-hour flight back to Mexico. Upon arriving at Cabo San Lucas, the patient was loaded onto the MC-130P and flown to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar near San Diego. He was subsequently transported via ambulance to a local level-four trauma center.
In addition to the highly specialized capabilities of the air crews and pararescuemen, 129th RQW Airmen were utilized outside their traditional roles to enable a successful rescue. Two Airmen, who speak Filipino, served as translators for the non-English-speaking ship crew and aided in translation for the badly injured ship hand, facilitating both his medical care and support throughout the rescue process.
"This was a complex rescue mission, but our Airmen were up for the task," said Col. Steven J. Butow, 129th RQW commander. "This is the third successful long-range, overwater mission we have executed within the past nine months. Saving lives beyond the capability of others is what we do best."
The rescue mission increases the wing's total lives saved to 957.
The primary mission of the 129th RQW is to perform its wartime mission of combat search and rescue anywhere in the world. In addition to its wartime mission, the unit also works closely with the Coast Guard and various civil agencies during state missions. Equipped with MC-130P Combat Shadow aircraft and HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopters, the 129th RQW has performed a wide variety of civilian search-and-rescue missions, including the rescue of distressed persons aboard ships, lost or injured hikers, and medical evacuations.
Article by Capt. Donald LeBlanc, California National Guard Public Affairs