Navy Hawkeyes Find Mariners Adrift

Story Number: NNS111214-14Release Date: 12/14/2011 1:57:00 PM
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From U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command & U.S. 4th Fleet Public Affairs

CARRIBEAN SEA (NNS) -- Aircrews aboard two U.S. Navy E-2C Hawkeye airplanes detected a capsized fishing vessel with four merchant mariners clinging to the vessel's hull approximately 110 nautical miles East-Northeast of Barranquilla, Colombia, Dec. 8.

Once the mariners were discovered on the capsized boat, the aircraft remained overhead as the on scene commander and coordinated with merchant vessel Green Cove to rescue the desperate men.

"Our E-2C APS-145 radar detected what appeared to be a small-sized vessel and we vectored a second E-2C to visually identify it," said Cmdr. Russell Herrell, mission commander and naval Reservist. "We quickly realized that what we had found was a small vessel that had capsized, and the four survivors were standing on the keel of the vessel waving yellow towels at us to indicate they were in distress and needed assistance. Our counter drug mission quickly changed to a rescue at sea mission."

The Colombian air force launched a C-560 patrol aircraft, and the Navy dispatched a Colombian rescue vessel to assist in the rescue operation. The four men were stranded and adrift for nine days before being rescued. They were taken to Barranquilla for medical attention.

The airplanes and aircrews are from the Nightwolves Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 77 (VAW-77) based aboard Joint Reserve Base, New Orleans, and is the U.S. Navy's only fully dedicated counter-narcotics squadron. They were conducting Counter Transnational Organized Crime (C-TOC) operations while assigned to U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet (COMUSNAVSO/C4F) when the men were discovered and rescued.

"The evolution strengthened the relationship between the naval and air forces of the United States and Colombia," said Cmdr. Todd Heyne, VAW-77 commanding officer.

The E-2C Hawkeyes have been operating from a Colombian air base in Barranquilla since July.

"It is fitting that our last combined operation of this detachment ended on such a positive note, with the rescue of four stranded civilians," Heyne said. "These results are only possible through the hard work of VAW-77's Sailors and Northrop Grumman contract maintenance team."

COMUSNAVSO/C4F supports U.S. Southern Command joint and combined full-spectrum military operations by providing a principally sea-based, forward presence to ensure freedom of maneuver in the maritime domain, to foster and sustain cooperative relationships with international partners and to fully exploit the sea as maneuver space in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions.

For more information, contact COMUSNAVSO/C4F public affairs by e-mail at, or visit, on Facebook at, or on Twitter at

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