News: Marines assist Coast Guard in search and rescue operations
By Lance Cpl. J. Gage Karwick
APRA HARBOR, Guam - Marines with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152, Marine Aircraft Group 12, Marine Wing Communications Squadron 18 and MAG-36 banded together to successfully conduct a search-and-rescue mission June 6.
The Marines were in search of two men, ages 32 and 24, who had been missing for almost three days.
The Coast Guard had assumed command of rescue operations and received permission from Marine Forces Pacific to receive aerial assistance from the Marines who were in Guam participating in Exercise Geiger Fury 2012.
“I heard about the mission last night and I can’t explain exactly how I felt, but I knew I had to be a part of the effort to find these two men in some way,” said Staff Sgt. Elliott Stanton, MAG-12 search and rescue volunteer. “I couldn’t help but think ‘what if that was me out there, floating in a little boat with no food or water?’ If it was me out there and the only thing I saw for days was a C-130 flying over me with ‘Marines’ painted on the side of it, that is truly inspiring.”
“This truly says something special about the Marine Corps that in short notice we were able launch and get the mission underway and successfully complete it,” said Capt. Joseph Lennox, a pilot with VMGR-152 and search and rescue volunteer. "That’s the kind of thing the American people expect out of us, to be able to conduct a mission at the drop of a hat and accomplish it professionally, and we definitely proved that today.”
The two men were adrift in the Pacific in a 23-foot skiff with a 40 horse-power outboard motor.
“We were about three hours into our search pattern given to us by the Coast Guard when suddenly there was a small orange dot in the middle of the vast blue of the Pacific barely noticeable from the window of the cockpit,” said Lennox.
After spotting the two men, the Marines circled the vessel a few times to assure the men that they had them in sight and that the Marines were going to take care of them.
Ten miles away from the two men, the Marines spotted the Solar Africa, a Liberian tanker with which the Marines were able to establish radio contact to inform them of the situation. The ship’s crew members agreed to help.
“As soon as we saw that tanker we knew we had to try to get their help because there is only so much we could do from the air,” said Capt. Michael Smith, a pilot with VMGR-152 and search and rescue volunteer. “We guided that ship to the raft we had dropped for the two men containing some food and water. The ship then proceeded to send out a small motored raft to pick up the men who were adrift and bring them back to the tanker. We stayed circling above until we were sure the men were safely aboard the tanker then preceded back to base having completed the mission.”
The Marines, having been given short notice orders, teamed with the Coast Guard and good Samaritans of the Solar Africa to save lives.
After having been adrift for almost three days and all prior search efforts having been in vain, the two men are now able to return home, possibly never meeting the Marines who first found them and aided their rescue.