News: Search and rescue squadron saves 25 lives in 2011
Story by Lance Cpl. Cory D. Polom
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. - Marines, sailors and civilians around the area notice and recognize the orange and grey HH-46E Sea Knights that fly around the area known as Pedro. This aircraft is just one of three type/model/series flown by Marine Transport Squadron 1 and is used for search and rescue missions in support of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing pilots.
VMR-1 is known for the use of Pedro; however, a lot of people do not see the other aircraft of the unit used to support the Marine Corps. VMR-1 has a fixed-wing side as well comprised of the C-9B Skytrian II and the UC-35D Encore.
“It is the job of both fixed-wing aircraft to move high priority passengers and cargo to areas around the world,” said Maj. John N. Wilkin, the operations officer for VMR-1. “If we do not use these aircraft for administrative movements then that pulls KC-130Js out of the fight to be used.”
Wilkin said the C-9 and UC-35 have conducted several missions in 2011 directly supporting the war fighter and the commands along the East Coast. This includes tasks assigned from Headquarters Marine Corps and the Joint Operations Support Aircraft Center such as flying enlisted and officer monitors to Asia and Europe.
Maj. Jason T. Vrable, a SAR pilot for VMR-1, said this year the Marines and Sailors that fly Pedro conducted more than 30 missions while saving 25 lives in almost 70 hours of mission flight time.
“Pedro directly supports the mission of 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing by providing overwater rescue support for downed aircrew in the local area,” said Lt. Col. Edward T. Lang, the commanding officer of VMR-1. “Without Pedro there would be no immediate support to aircrews which would require extensive preparation to make sure a civilian or Coast Guard asset was available.”
Lang said the nearest alternate assets for search and rescue are located in Elizabeth City, N.C., and South Carolina and that Pedro covers the local North Carolina coast, but they train all the time to be ready.
“When Pedro is not conducting search and rescue or medical evacuation missions it is supporting civilian and military events and keeping their Marines and Sailors’ qualifications updated,” said Vrable. “We have to keep our guys qualified and ready.”
Vrable said, “A lot of the time when Pedro goes to do a SAR or medevac mission it is starting up the aircraft in dark, stormy weather. Pedro has to train for the worst to be prepared for the worst.”
“VMR-1 is unique in the sense that we always have two very different types of aircraft in this hangar; the HH-46E and the fixed-wing aircraft,” said Lang. “Both the fixed-wing and Pedro make me proud every day with the missions they complete. Pedro has done great things for this community, both military and civilian. It has helped save the lives of many people. The fixed-wing platforms on the other hand enable the Marine Corps to conduct important operations more economically.”
Lang finished by saying, whether it is the Marines and sailors of Pedro rescuing a downed pilot or flying Marines in support of the war fighter, VMR-1 is looking forward to another great year in 2012.