Navy Rescue Crews Save Sailors, Pilots, Civilians
The smell of crisp pine in the air, and the peaceful quietness of nothing but the rushing of emerald green glacial rivers as they flow down the side of a mountain describes most of the state of Washington. However, this heart-stopping landscape has a potentially lethal side that can claim even the most experienced hikers. But, luckily for those in northern Washington, there's a highly trained group of Sailors ready to answer the call.
From the frigid waters of the Puget Sound to the dense tree canopies of the Olympic forest to the towering rock facades of the Cascade Mountain Range, Sailors from the Naval Air Station Whidbey Island Search and Rescue (NASWI SAR) team provide 24-hour SAR for the fixed winged assets in the area, as well as the civilian population. While most squadrons in the fleet have multi-mission platforms, Whidbey Island SAR's one focus is rescue.
"Generally, helicopter squadrons around the fleet, whether they're a Romeo or Sierra Squadron, they're going to have a multi-mission platform. Those helicopters, pilots and flight crews need to be able to do a multitude set of missions, from the Romeo side, which is hunting subs and possible rescues, where the Sierra side could go from rescue, logistics and anti-mine warfare. Unfortunately, they don't get to really ever focus on one," said Lt. Chris Pitcher, NAWSI SAR operations officer. "Our job is to go out and save people, whether it's pulling them out from the water or from the side of a mountain, and we train almost every day for those different scenarios. So when those scenarios do pop up, we're not surprised, and we can get the job done and get that person to a higher level of care."
Because of this, NAWSI SAR is the only squadron in the fleet that is outfitted with an advance life-support helicopter platform. It allows crews to not only save pilots in case of emergencies, but also work with local hospitals and emergency rooms to provide care for anyone in need of medical attention.