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D-M airmen rescue injured Mexican fishermen

1700 mile mission over the Pacific
563d RQG Airmen rescue injured Mexican sailors
563d RQG Airmen rescue injured Mexican sailors
Posted at 9:31 AM, Jul 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-16 22:50:01-04

TUCSON, Ariz. - Air Force rescue units are revered in the military -- because they'll fly into danger -- even into enemy fire -- when you're in trouble.

Last week Davis-Monthan rescue crews flew a challenging 1700 mile mission over the Pacific.

Rescue crews from Davis-Monthan's 563rd Rescue Group got the word an accident on a Mexican fishing boat left two fishermen badly hurt----more than 1300 miles southwest of San Diego---out of reach of Mexican rescue crews and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Rescue experts geared up and climbed on HC-130s. They are long range aircraft but this flight was fourteen hours. Pilot Major Corey Callahan says they needed extra fuel from a tanker plane.

"They sent us a KC-10 that we hit right on top of the boat to get more gas, then inserted the P-J and the flight Doc at that time."

PJ stands for pararescue jumper. Seven of them parachuted into the Pacific near the fishing boat.

Crew from the Mexican boat picked up the PJs but once they saw the patients they wanted their flight doctor to see the patients first hand.

Doctor Colby Gray says, “They asked me to jump in and provide on scene medical direction. In addition to that, we were able to work with a local community here in Tucson, and Banner University helped to provide us some medications. The American Red Cross provided us some blood supplies that we used on this mission as well. And, and we were able to reach out to one of the neurosurgeons here for some consultation."

Besides the challenges of just getting safely on the boat there was the additional challenge of simply communicating.

PJ Senior Airman Raul Martinez says, “Yeah, it was it was definitely trying to paint the picture. And then because I had the translation in Spanish, I had to translate that again in English, you know, so kind of like constantly like we're looking for work not just with not just with the patients, but just also coordinating with the boat itself and Captain.”

The PJ's and flight doctor were able to stabilize the patients while the boat traveled another 800 miles to a Mexican island. There, the rescue crews handed the injured fishermen over to Mexican authorities knowing they had lived up to the pararescue motto: “That others may live”.