SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Princess Cruises honored the crew of USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) and Helicopter Anti-Submarine Warfare Squadron (HS) 4 during a press conference and recognition ceremony Jan. 6 aboard the cruise ship Dawn Princess.
According to Princess Cruise officials, the ceremony was held to bring together the officers and crew from Ronald Reagan, the Dawn Princess and U.S. Coast Guard officials who played major roles in the recent successful medical evacuation of a 14-year-old Laura Montero who was suffering from a ruptured appendix while on board the cruise ship.
Montero, who attended the press conference and recognition ceremony with her mother Trudy Lafield, was traveling with her family aboard the 2,000 passenger cruise ship when she became ill the evening of Dec. 14.
Captain Marco Fortezze of the Dawn Princess issued a distress call to the U.S. Coast Guard who then contacted Ronald Reagan, the closet ship in the vicinity with an on board surgical facility.
"I am delighted that Laura is here with today with her mother and that she looks so good," Fortezze told the group of attendees.
"It's very exciting for me to gather with everyone," added Fortezze, noting this was the first time everyone involved in the medical evacuation was able to meet.
Ronald Reagan was operating approximately 550 miles away from the Dawn Princess at the time of the distress call, and both ships traveled throughout the night until they were within 175 miles for the medical evacuation.
"We communicated many times over the course of the evening [Dec. 14] and it took approximately six hours before our two ships were within range so that a helicopter could be launched," said Fortezze.
In a dramatic medical evacuation Dec. 15 that drew national media attention, an HH-60H helicopter from HS-4 was dispatched for the mission. Because the helicopter could not land aboard the Dawn Princess, a basket was lowered and the patient was lifted onto the helicopter. Montero was then transported to Ronald Reagan where life-saving emergency surgery was performed.
"Some people have stated that they are amazed and pleased that we would divert an aircraft carrier to rescues a single 14-year-old girl," said Kraft. "What I would submit is that these kinds of things happen all the time and all over the world in our Navy. The spectrum of operations we're ready to execute range from disaster relief to full combat operations and everything in between."
Also attending the recognition ceremony were Rear Adm. James P. Wisecup, commander of the Ronald Reagan Strike Group; Capt. Charles Strangfeld, commander of Coast Guard Sector San Diego; George Wright; senior vice-president of marine operations for Princess Cruises; Cmdr. Paul Pensabene, commanding officer of HS-4; and Cmdr. Theron Toole, Ronald Reagan's senior medical officer.
"We were all pulling for Laura," added Kraft. "And although the Dawn Princess is a beautiful ship, we very much enjoyed having Laura and her mom as our shipmates for a few days."
Ronald Reagan was commissioned in July 2003, making it the ninth and newest Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. The ship is named for the 40th U.S. president; its motto, "Peace through Strength," was a recurring theme during the Reagan presidency.
For more news from USS Ronald Reagan, visit www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn76/.