MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. --
The bitter cold and freezing Atlantic waters did not stop the search and rescue team of Marine Transport Squadron 1 from diving in during SAR training missions just off the coast of eastern North Carolina, Jan. 12.
With the HH-46E helicopter, affectionately known as Pedro, in full flight, VMR-1’s SAR non commissioned officer in charge, Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Smith, jumped into the water. After Pedro circled around, Gunnery Sgt. William B. Cordoza, the quality assurance chief for VMR-1, jumped into the water to serve as a stranded victim for Smith.
Pedro hovered above as Smith swam to rescue the supposed drowning victim. Once Smith had secured the safety harness to Cordoza, he signaled the Pedro crew and within seconds they sent down a safety line designed to pull a possible drowning victim and rescuer out of the water.
Slowly and cautiously Cordoza and Smith were pulled out of the water and into the interior of Pedro where the crew was ready to assist the victim.
Cordoza said he felt this type of real life training mission was important for rescue swimmers.
“Training in a real situation is different than in a swimming pool,” Cordoza said. “That water was really cold.”
According to Cordoza, the SAR crew of VMR-1 runs these practice scenarios on a regular basis as a proficiency builder for the pilots and crew of Pedro.
“We run these training sessions at least two or three times a month,” Cordoza said. “This was my first time jumping into the water, but I have done many training missions with Pedro.”
Smith said the hours they spend in the air training are important in ensuring SAR Marines adequately serve their community.
“This is our mission at the air station,” Smith said. “The more we train, the more proficient we become at completing our mission.”
Smith said their mission is also vital considering the area they cover.
“We can fly more than 15 nautical miles over the water before needing to refuel,” Smith said. “On land we can service an infinite area.”
Smith added they also provide search and rescue over land and medical transportations for hospitals all across North Carolina.
According to Smith, the Jan. 12, training mission was a success.
“The exercise went really well,” Smith said. “We are becoming more proficient every time we train.”