ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam – Members of the Nebraska and Alaska Air National Guard helped Coast Guard and Federated States of Micronesia responders rescue five missing fishermen near Houk Island, Chuuk, March 12.
The mariners set sail March 9 aboard a 23-foot skiff but never returned to the dock.
On March 11, Joint Rescue Sub-Center Guam was notified that the skiff and five men on board were overdue from a fishing trip.
JRSC watchstanders issued a SafetyNet broadcast to mariners. They also deployed an Air Station Barbers Point HC-130 Hercules aircrew from Hawaii, diverted the Coast Guard cutter Myrtle Hazard, and began querying possible volunteer commercial vessels and partners in the area to assist with the search.
“I received the notification Friday evening of the missing skiff last seen in the vicinity of Chuuk from Pacific Air Force air mobility division, Hawaii,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Jason Smith, 506th Air Expeditionary Aerial Refueling Squadron assistant director of operations. “Once notified, I contacted the Coast Guard Command Center since there were no aircraft in the area and asked how we could assist. I called upon my crew and immediately worked a plan to get a crew out there.”
U.S. Air Force Maj. Mat Roby, KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft commander assigned to the 506th EARS, and his crew of five Airmen geared up and took off from Andersen AFB determined for a miracle.
About three and a half hours into their mission, the crew spotted the five mariners on a skiff near Houk Island.
“It was about 3:15 p.m. when we finally got eyes on the missing mariners,” Roby said. “Once we knew for sure it was them, we stayed on scene until the Coast Guard HC-130 crew arrived and deployed a search and rescue kit with food, water, and handheld radios.”
The vessel Hoegh Bracilia arrived shortly after and recovered the five men. JRSC directed the vessel to proceed to Houk Island and remain offshore overnight. The next morning, the Coast Guard cutter Myrtle Hazard escorted the skiff back to Houk Island.
“Through coordination with multiple response agencies, we were able to save five members of our community and bring them back home to their families,” said Cmdr. Kristen Hahn, search and rescue mission coordinator for Joint Rescue Coordination Center Honolulu.
Guardsmen from the 155th Air Refueling Squadron, Nebraska Air National Guard, and the Alaska Air National Guard were deployed to Guam so were available to assist in the rescue.