Air Force assists Coast Guard, saves injured sailor

  • Published
  • By Rossi D. Pedroza and Staff Sgt. Tara R. Abrahams
  • 940th Air Refueling Wing

Three Reserve Citizen Airmen from the 314th Air Refueling Squadron at Beale Air Force Base, California provided aerial refueling to support a joint mission August 26. Airmen from three bases assisted the Coast Guard to provide urgent care to an injured Chinese sailor more than 1,000 miles west of the California coast.

The foreign sailor was aboard the Hong Kong flagship, Ocean Applaud, and sustained injuries from an estimated 30-foot fall while en route from Japan to California.

The Eleventh Coast Guard District in Alameda, California received the first call and requested rescue support from the Air National Guard since the ship was out of their range. The 129th Rescue Wing based at Moffett Federal Airfield, California; accepted the mission and contacted the 314 ARS for additional fuel.

Maj. Jose Vergara from the 314 ARW said the refueling crew was ready in less than three hours and launched a KC-135 Stratotanker for immediate support.

Also included in the joint effort was a 129th RQW HC-130J aircraft carrying a Guardian Angel team of seven para-rescue jumpers. Once the PJ’s made their jump and boarded the Ocean Applaud vessel, they made initial contact with the patient around 7 a.m. the following day.

With the help of the KC-135’s aerial refueling capability, the 129 RQW’s HC-130J Combat King II was able to stay in the air to support the mission as long as it took.

“The eagerness of the Air Force Reserve team to not only support but move quickly to get a crew and aircraft lined up really gave us the capability to execute,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Nance, 129th Rescue Squadron commander. “Knowing we had the capability to extend the HC-130J for some time, to loiter and support our GA team with the assistance of your crew greatly reduced the risk of the mission.”

Last to be called was the 55th Rescue Squadron from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona. The squadron launched two HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters to help the Guardian Angel team disembark and support exfiltration and transport the sailor to Stanford Hospital in Palo Alto, California.

Thanks to the total force effort and preparedness of the Coast Guard, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve the United States military was able to answer the call to help save lives.

Satellite view and location of the rescue mission. The bulk carrier, Ocean Applaud's location and distance from the northern coastline of the state of California. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)