Health & Safety

October 25, 2012

Search and Rescue crew recovers aircraft, proves mettle

Story by Cpl. Shelby Shields
Courtesy photo

Members of the station Search and Rescue team responded to a call from the La Paz County Sherriff’s Department at approximately 11:20 a.m., Oct. 15 requesting assistance with a downed aircraft recovery carrying two occupants.

The rescue team banded together and located the downed aircraft by 12:58 p.m., only a little more than an hour and a half after the initial call. Thankfully, the two occupants of the plane were found at the site with no injuries and were evacuated from the area.

“There’s always a little anxiety with every flight,” said Seaman Curt Hansen, the corpsman aboard last week’s rescue. “That being said we train for much harder situations so it made this one easier.”

Search and Rescue teams on station are constantly practicing and training for any and all kinds of situations they may face. During the week there are at least two training flights per day, one in the morning and one at night.

“The amount of training we do is what helps us complete these rescues so smoothly,” said Maj. Clayton Danford, Co-pilot on the rescue. “It’s about currency and staying proficient.”

Another key aspect to the training is making sure the crews are constantly switched.

“We switch day-to-day,” said Lance Cpl. Jesse Butterfield, a crew chief with SAR. “We’re what you call a universal crew, this way no matter who is available we’re all trained to the same standard and can work with anyone.”

Though many of Marine Corps Air Station Yuma’s SAR launches are in support of civilian entities, mostly heat casualties and the occasional ejection, the SAR Marines understand and are devoted to their chief duty.

“Our primary mission is supporting the air station,” said Hansen. “It’s always rewarding to help out the local community, but first and foremost we’re here for the Marines.”

“Depending on the severity of the rescue is how we determine priority,” added Danford. “Obviously if one of our aircraft were down but we knew everyone on board was ‘Ok’ and we had a call from our civilian counterparts involving injury or potentially something serious we will make that call and help everyone we can.”

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