Coast Guard, Air Force and Air National Guard combine forces to save a life

Pacific Southwest Coast Guard NewsPACIFIC OCEAN – The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Morgenthau, along with the Air Force and members of a California Air National Guard pararescue team with the 129th Rescue Wing located at Moffett Federal Airfield near Mountain View, Calif., conducted a long-range joint rescue of an injured man this week.

The Coast Guard 11th District command center in Alameda, Calif., received a call from the deep-sea tuna fishing vessel Mirelur, located 1,400 miles southwest of Acapulco, Mexico. The captain was requesting medical assistance for a 37-year-old Ecuadorian man suffering from acute abdominal pain. A Coast Guard duty Flight Surgeon recommended a medical evacuation as soon as possible.

The Mirelur, a Vanuatu-flagged vessel, was directed toward Acapulco, the nearest point of land. The Coast Guard Cutter Morgenthau, patrolling nearby, was diverted to rendezvous with the Mirelur in order to provide a stable medical environment and coordinate communications between the rescue forces.

“This was truly an incredible case that showcased the capabilities and interoperability of the Coast Guard, Air Force and California Air National Guard,” Coast Guard Capt. Greg Burg, commanding officer of the Morgenthau. “Bringing these two mariners to safety after being nearly 1,400 miles and several days away from any help is no small task. It would not have been possible without the teamwork and professionalism of all involved.”

On Sept. 4, the four-person pararescue team was successfully deployed from an Air National Guard MC-130P Combat Shadow aircraft.

“Back on land, we have ambulances to call when something goes wrong. Out in the middle of the ocean, resources are very limited and it is essential that we prepare with the proper gear,” said Master Sgt. Seth Zweben, a member of the pararescue team.

The team parachuted into the water and swam to the vessel. Once aboard, they assessed the patient’s condition; the crewmember was still experiencing severe abdominal pain. A second man, also examined, was suffering from lower back and leg pain due to a fishing accident.

Once the Morgenthau arrived on scene with the Mirelur, both patients and the four pararescuemen were brought safely aboard. They were later hoisted aboard two Air National Guard HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters and transported to the Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, International Airport before being transferred to a hospital.

“This was definitely a successful operation. The Air National Guard portion was well-coordinated and their support was greatly appreciated,” said Petty Officer Kevin Steineke, an operation specialist with the Coast Guard 11th District command center that coordinated the operation.

“This mission demonstrates the adaptability of the Air National Guard to fight wildfires in California one moment, and then save the lives of civilians in the Pacific the next,” said Col. Steven J. Butow, 129th Rescue Wing Commander. “I am extremely proud of our airmen and their selfless efforts to save the lives of these fishermen.”

“Saving lives at sea is exactly what we are out here to do,” said Burg.

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