Partner countries tour Corpus Christi area Coast Guard units

Coast Guard District 8 NewsCORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The Coast Guard welcomed 10 international students and instructors to discuss search and rescue procedures at Sector Corpus Christi, Wednesday.

Students and instructors from the International Search and Rescue School in San Antonio arrived at Sector Corpus Christi Wednesday morning. The students are members of the military in their home countries of Bolivia and Columbia.

After meeting with Cmdr. David Billburg, logistics department supervisor at Sector Corpus Christi, they were given a tour of the sector command center.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael O’Leary, an aviation survival technician with Coast Guard Air Station Corpus Christi, provided an overview of the Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer Program. He explained some of the equipment they use, and let the students try on various gear, including the rescue swimmer triton harness.

“It’s a basic climbing harness with a floatation device built in,” explained O’Leary. He also shared some of his experience from various rescues.

Senior Chief Petty Officer Derrick Brown, command center supervisor for Sector Corpus Christi, discussed the roles and responsibilities of each watchstander in the command center.

“When it gets busy, we can coordinate multiple boats and aircraft conducting various searches,” said Brown. “Wearing a lifejacket and using the proper signaling devices greatly increases a person’s chance of being rescued.”

After learning about the planning and strategy behind search and rescue, the students had an opportunity to tour two of the Coast Guard’s aircraft. The MH-65 Dolphin rescue helicopter, which is used for quick rescues of people off shore. Using the helicopter hoist system, the helicopter can pick up multiple survivors and bring them to safety. The HU-25 Falcon, a high speed, medium range search and rescue platform, is used for locating missing people or people in distress. They can also deliver tools such as a de-watering pump, a life raft, or other survival gear to assist the mariners until a helicopter or boat arrives on scene.

“We’ve got the speed to get on scene and assess the situation,” said Lt. Steven Vanderlaske, HU-25 Falcon Pilot. “We can then deliver equipment to the people, or vector a boat in to assist while serving as a command and control platform for all vessel and aircraft involved with the case.”

Sector Corpus Christi is responsible for more than 250 miles of coast line, has three small boat stations, three aids to navigation teams, four patrol boats, a river tender, and one air station. Sector Corpus Christi performs all Coast Guard missions, except ice-breaking.

Personnel annually conduct about 450 search and rescue missions, assist 591 people in distress, save 83 lives and $3 million in property, seize over 5,500 lbs. of drugs and interdict 22 small-craft conducting smuggling and illegal fishing, interdict and detain over 130 illegal immigrants, maintain 1,300 aids to navigation, manage the safe arrival of 3,200 commercial vessels, conduct 900 facility visits, investigate 230 marine related incidents, and perform 490 vessel inspections.

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