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Old 10-08-2003, 05:15 AM
thedrifter thedrifter is offline
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Cool 'Raiders' help medevac Sailor from submarine

'Raiders' help medevac Sailor from submarine
Submitted by: MCAS Miramar
Story Identification Number: 2003103183421
Story by Lance Cpl. Paul Leicht

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif.(Oct. 1, 2003) -- With most of the San Diego area already enjoying the weekend, an early morning emergency call came in to Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 352 Aug. 23.

It provided some sketchy facts about a Sailor on board a U.S. Navy submarine some 600 nautical miles off the coast of San Francisco who was sick and needed medical attention beyond what could be provided at sea.

"The helicopter that was going to fly out to the submarine needed to be refueled by a C-130 to get out there," said Capt. Roy W. Moore, 29, co-pilot, VMGR-352, who flew on the mission. "The initial reports said the submarine was as far out as 1,000 miles, but the exact position was unknown."

Members of the U.S. Coast Guard coordinated the operation and provided additional information about the rescue mission.

"We were told an Air Force aerial refueling squadron with the 129th Rescue Wing out of Moffett Federal Field in the San Francisco Bay area was already contacted, but our help was needed since they did not have sufficient resources for the entire mission and we were the only other C-130 squadron with aerial refueling capabilities on the west coast," explained Capt. Karl T. Schmidt, 28, pilot and headquarters executive officer, Marine Aircraft Group 11. "So as the details came in, we decided we really needed to move from Miramar to Moffett to get in on the mission briefing at midnight."

With a KC-130 Hercules and 60,000 pounds of fuel, the standby Raider crew took off and headed for northern California to provide assistance any way they could. Landing a few hours later, the Raiders arrived ready to be further briefed by mission coordinators and participate in the rescue.

"The Sailor was near death and needed to get off the sub immediately because he was experiencing kidney failure, or chronic renal insufficiency, and the only treatment is dialysis," said Moore, a native of Fairfield, Conn. "The submarine didn't have the medical assets to handle that kind of emergency."

With time a critical factor, the rescue team took off from Moffett Federal Field and headed out to sea early on the morning of Aug. 24.

Following the operational plan, the patient was medevaced from the submarine via an Air Force HH-60 rescue helicopter being refueled by the Raiders' KC-130 before being hoisted aboard a nearby cutter and stabilized.

Once the ill Sailor was treated, the HH-60 then met the cutter again and airlifted the patient to Moffett Field, where he was transported by ambulance to Stanford Medical Center.

"It was all scheduled so that the pick up would happen at sunrise so the helicopter would have visibility," said Gunnery Sgt. Matt R. Rollins, 35, navigator, VMGR-352 and a native of Brere, Ohio. "En route it was still dark, but as we got to the submarine the sun was coming up over the horizon."

In addition to providing the much-needed fuel for the rescue helicopter to make the four-hour flight just to reach the submarine, from their KC-130 in flight the Raider crew also fulfilled another vital role.

"Our aircraft was kind of a communications hub, serving as a radio relay between the helicopter, the boat, the Air Force's C-130 and mission personnel on land," said Staff Sgt. Philip E. Baldridge, 28, loadmaster, VMGR-352. "I was in touch with a Coast Guard unit that was in charge of the whole mission, who checked in to see where everyone was roughly every 30 minutes or so."

Flying at low speed around 140 knots in support of the helicopter, the Raiders' KC-130 achieved the endurance in the air that they needed and kept them close to the HH-60 for the first half of the mission en route to the submarine, explained Moore.

But flying at night was also quite challenging for the crew.

"It was a little tricky from a flying standpoint, especially flying helicopter aerial refueling at night with no night-vision gear, no visual clues other than the blinking light of the other aircraft," added Moore. "Unfortunately our night capable aircraft was obligated elsewhere.

"The Air Force's C-130 crew by contrast had night vision gear and specialized in this type of search and rescue, but for some reason elected to fly the day portion of the aerial refueling to take the helicopter back to shore. So here we are flying a mission really for the first time, with a weekend standby crew not really expecting to do this sort of thing and then leading the first half of the mission at night. It was a significant accomplishment and they would not have been able to complete the mission without us."

"Once the rescue helicopter had picked up the Sailor and confirmed control, we passed them back over to the Air Force's Hercules and made our way back to Miramar," said Rollins. "The type of flying we were doing was not typical for us," explained Moore. "We do helicopter aerial refueling all the time, but it's tactical, it's a different style. Normally we don't stay with the helicopter; we show up, we refuel it and we leave. This time we were doing en route rendezvous at low speed over the water in pitch black conditions, so it was exciting and a little challenging."

By the time the Raiders landed safely back home at Miramar around 10:15 a.m. Aug. 24, they had used roughly 45,000 pounds of fuel, of which 5,000 was passed to the helicopter, according to Moore.

"This was the first time we participated in a search and rescue operation like this on the west coast," said Schmidt. "It actually coincided with another of our aircraft on standby for tasking search and rescue out of Keflavik, Iceland, that was doing similar work over the north Atlantic."

Also on board the Raiders' KC-130 for the submarine rescue mission was Sgt. Justin T. Grebenstein, flight engineer, VMGR-352, and a native of Colorado Springs, Colo., and Cpl. Brennan P. Lawrence, 21, flight mechanic, VMGR-352, from Union, Ky.

"Basically we showed up with our aircraft ready to help and even though it's not what we normally do, we had the capability to perform the mission out there," said Moore. "Having no real background in that type of aerial refueling or search and rescue, that kind of aerial refueling was sort of a new real-world mission. It was a total success and our crew performed superbly."


SSgt. Roger A.
One Proud Marine
Once A Marine............Always A Marine.............
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