March 14, 2012
by Capt. Donald G. LeBlanc
129th Rescue Wing Public Affairs
MOFFETT FEDERAL AIRFIELD, Calif. (AFNS) — California Air National Guardsmen from the 129th Rescue Wing based here successfully completed the rescue of two injured fishermen from a Chinese fishing vessel 700 miles off the coast of Acapulco, Mexico, March 12, 2012.
The 129th Rescue Wing received a call from the U.S. Coast Guard March 9 concerning two injured fishermen on the Chinese fishing vessel, Fu Yuan Yu 871.
The fishermen, badly burned in a diesel fire, required medical 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 Rescue Wing accepted the mission.
The 129th’s HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopters feature a retractable in-flight refueling probe so the range of the helicopter exceeds the range of other rescue aircraft. Long-range over-water rescues are a distinct capability of the 129th.
Mission planning was quickly underway.
Maintenance crews began preparing two MC-130P Combat Shadow aircraft and two HH-60Gs for the mission March 10. Logistics crews loaded rescue equipment into MC-130Ps while the HH-60Gs departed Moffett Field en route to Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego, Calif. Since helicopters fly at slower speeds, they needed a head start for the lengthy mission.
The rescue phase of the mission began early March 11 when the two MC-130Ps departed Moffett Field. The first MC-130P departed en route to the vessel’s location and the second headed south to conduct aerial refueling operations with the HH-60Gs, which had departed from Naval Air Station North Island en route to General Juan N. Álvarez International Airport, Acapulco, Mexico.
Upon arriving at the vessel’s location, four Guardian Angel Pararescuemen, also known as PJs, parachuted off the MC-130P into the Pacific Ocean and boarded an inflatable Zodiac boat. Equipped with medical supplies, the PJs maneuvered the boat next to the fishing vessel before boarding and providing medical treatment to the injured fishermen.
Once onboard the vessel, the four PJs stabilized the patients and provided medical care. They consulted with a wing flight doctor regarding the fishermen’s conditions via satellite phone and adjusted treatment as necessary. Due to the severity of one of the patients’ burns, the decision was made to transport the patients to a burn treatment center in San Diego.
Two HH-60Gs and one MC-130P departed Acapulco to rescue the injured sailors and pickup the PJs. Upon arriving at the vessel’s location, aircrews hoisted the fishermen and PJs off the fishing vessel onto the helicopters hovering above.
The fishermen were flown on the helicopters to Acapulco, where the second MC-130P’s aircrews were waiting. The patients were loaded onto the MC-130P and flown to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar near San Diego, Calif. They were subsequently transferred to a medical center in San Diego, Calif.
The remaining aircraft and Airmen will begin their return to Moffett Federal Airfield March 13.
“”I could not be prouder of our Airmen’s extraordinary efforts during this mission,” said Col. Steven J. Butow, 129th Rescue Wing Commander. This mission is a testament to the first response capabilities our wing provides to California and the nation.”
This rescue brings the total number of people saved by the 129th RQW to 950.
The primary mission of the 129th Rescue Wing is to conduct 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 other civil agencies on state missions; equipped with MC-130P Combat Shadow aircraft and HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopters, the 129th has performed a wide variety of civilian search-and-rescue missions, including responding to distressed persons aboard ships, lost or injured hikers, and medical evacuations.