Henry G. Dunphy
PACIFIC OCEAN � Pararescuemen from the 129th Rescue Wing California Air National Guard prepare to jump from the rear door of a Coast Guard C-130 Hercules airplane approximately 1,400 miles southwest of San Diego April 1, 2010.The Coast Guard and Air National Guard worked together to respond to medevac an injured 57-year-old man by dropping four pararescuemen, an inflatable boat and other rescue and survival equipment. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Henry G. Dunphy.
Moffett's 129th Rescue Wing flexed its rescue muscle this weekend in an operation that reads like the blockbuster "The Perfect Storm" as they try to save the life of a man seriously hurt while sailing the Pacific.
Four para-jumpers hurled themselves into the dark open ocean Thursday night with only their wits, a zodiac boat and small amount of medical supplies. Their names are not being released yet, but they all live here in the Bay Area according to Air National Guard officials.
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.
The man was hurt 1400 miles off the coast of Mexico. It has taken several rescue agencies to get him the help he needs including an privately owned African merchant vessel, a U.S. Coast Guard HC-130H Hercules from McClellan Airfield, the Naval Air Station North Island, refueling aircraft and two Air National Guard HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters.
Members at the California National Guard Joint Operations Center in Sacramento are supporting the mission in collaboration with the U.S. Coast Guard District 11 Rescue Coordination Center in Alameda and the U.S. Air Force Rescue Coordination Center at Tyndall AFB in Florida.
Colonel Mark Sheehy is 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.
Apparently, the rescue is a matter of life and death for the injured man. And his rescue is taking Herculean efforts by the above list.
Thursday night's middle of the night parachute drop by the Moffett Field heroes had "no room for error" by the California Air National Guard rescue team. The drop 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.
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 to be extracted and airlifted to San Diego. If things go well the injured man will be surgery in San Diego late Sunday night.
The sailboat Wind Child and its remaining captain and crew continued their journey without the injured man.