Moffett's 129th Rescue Wing heard the call of duty this past week and left their homes here in the Bay Area to help a sailor facing a life and death situation in the Pacific Ocean off Mexico.
That emergency call came last Thursday and their rescue effort lasted a harrowing four days. All are safely back on U.S. soil this morning.
Their mission was to give life-saving medical treatment to the 56-year-old man who suffered severe head trauma while on board a 56-foot sailboat 1,400 miles off the coast of Mexico.
Four para-jumpers of the California Air National Guard risked their lives at several points to save the man. First they jumped from a U.S. Coast Guard Hercules aircraft into the dark oceans waters to reach him. Their names are not being released yet, but they all live here in the Bay Area according to Air National Guard officials.
They landed in the water in the middle of the night with only their wits, a small zodiac boat and life-saving medical equipment. The drop left "no room for error." It came as the team's aircraft had limited fuel and no other means of recovery. They knew they were going down to help a man without any immediate way back up.
Colonel Mark Sheehy was the commander of the rescue operation. He said a collaboration among this kind of joint forces is common in personnel recovery operations. "No one does it better than the California National Guard,” Colonel Sheehy said.
After they got to the sailboat, the Moffett team did a second risky operation the next morning.
That's where a Liberian registered merchant vessel come into the story. The ship, called the Cap Palmerston, agreed to take on the injured man. The transfer of the patient and the Bay Area team is being described as daring because it was between a small sailboat and a monstrous container vessel in rough seas and inclement weather.
The Cap Palmerston then set course for San Diego, but the man couldn't take that slow boat back to the mainland and instead needed yet another rescue which was to happen Sunday.
The patient and the Moffett team were extracted and airlifted to San Diego Sunday night. Around noon Easter Sunday, two Air National Guard Pave Hawk rescue helicopters from Naval Air Station North Island in Coronado met the merchant vessel at sea and hoisted the sailor and the rescue team.
The injured man is at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla. The Moffett team is making their way home with an Easter story for remember.
The original sailboat Wind Child and its remaining captain and crew continued their journey without the injured man.