ABOARD USS BONHOMME RICHARD, At Sea (NNS) -- The crew of an MH-60S Knighthawk helicopter embarked aboard USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) rescued more than 40 Indonesians off the coast of Sumatra Jan. 12, during a helicopter humanitarian disaster relief mission.
The crew of the San Diego-based "Gunbearers" of Helicopter Combat Support Squadron (HC) 11 Search and Rescue Det. made the rescue after dropping off badly needed supplies to Blang Pidie Air Field.
The Knighthawk's pilot, Lt. Cmdr. Jerry Lynch, said they noticed Indonesians were trapped between thick jungle, heavy surf, the mouth of a river and the path they had been walking all day.
"We stopped to see if they had a problem," said Lynch, a Pilot Mountain, N.C., native. "By the time we landed, a few began running through the trees and bush to get to us."
Using a translation card to communicate, the crew realized the Indonesians were trapped.
"We figured it pretty much was an entire village that was stranded there," said Lt. j.g. Dan Falkner, the helicopter's second pilot from Bergenfield, N.J. "They said they hadn't eaten in about five days and they wanted to get to the airport, where we'd been dropping off supplies all day."
The MH-60S transported the trapped Indonesians to Blang Pidie Air Field. They safely brought 19 women, children and elderly on the first run and the 21 men on the second. When they arrived, the Indonesians received medical care, food and water.
"They were really pumped-up about getting to the airfield, because they saw all the food and water," said Aviation Electronics Technician 3rd Class Johnathan Charles, the helicopter's search and rescue swimmer, from Slidell, La.
Charles said he helped find a solid landing zone for the helicopter with the help of the MH-60S crew chief, Aviation Electronics Technician 3rd Class Zachary Sperry, a native of Lakeside, Calif.
"It feels pretty good to know we made a difference in these people's lives," said Sperry.
Bonhomme Richard and HC-11 are currently operating off the coast of Sumatra in support of Operation Unified Assistance.
For related news on Navy tsunami relief operations, visit the Focus on Tsunami Relief Operations page at www.navy.mil/local/tsunami.
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