TUCSON, Ariz. - Combat rescue crews from Davis-Monthan are prepared to fly into danger---even enemy fire---to get people to safety, but they just came back from a long, unusual mission that took them from the desert---to hundreds of miles over the ocean.
Several units pulled together to pull off a challenging long range rescue. A Chinese cargo ship called for help when a crewman fell about 30 feet and broke multiple bones. The California Air National Guard flew an HC-130 fixed wing more than 1,300 miles over the Pacific. Pararescue jumpers from the 129th Rescue Wing parachuted into the sea, boarded the ship and stabilized the crewman.
Two helicopters from Davis-Monthan’s 563rd Rescue Group flew to Moffitt Field in California then headed offshore at daybreak keeping a close eye on fuel as they flew more than 400 miles to find the ship.
The ship had no landing pad, so they needed to spend about an hour carefully hovering and hoisting the injured sailor and five pararescue jumpers into the helicopter from a small side deck.
Captain Mark Ross says, “So that made it pretty challenging for not only the pilots, you have to keep references on the ship, but as well as our special mission aviators who have to very precisely lower and raise the devices to that deck in order to keep everybody safe in the survivors on and off the aircraft, and to the ship.”
Staff Sergeant Michael Conley worked long hours to keep the helicopters’ satellite communications able to finish the mission.
“It doesn't matter how many hours we work. It's all about getting that save getting, you know, saving anybody's life really. It doesn't have to be anyone's in particular, and we're just there to get the mission done and we’re ready to do it at any given moment.”
The helicopters had to use mid-air refueling four times to be able to fly an eight hour mission.
Finally, they landed back in California and the injured sailor was on his way to hospital care.