Andersen AFB fuels SAR mission to locate missing mariner
By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Thomas Higgins, Patrol Squadron 45 Public Affairs, 45 Public Affairs
/ Published June 10, 2021
KADENA AIR BASE, Japan --
A mariner onboard a 19-foot long skiff was reported missing on June 5 off the coast of the Federated States of Micronesia. VP-45 received tasking from the Rescue Coordination Center (RCC) Guam and executed a search of an assigned search box 900 nautical miles south east in the waters off the coast of Guam.
The crew launched from Kadena Air Force base, Japan in the pre-dawn hours, stopping at Andersen AFB to refuel before entering their search grid. Combat Aircrew (CAC) 7 began their search pattern at approximately 1 p.m. local time.
After searching for nearly one hour, CAC-7 reported sighting a vessel fitting the description given of the missing mariner. According to Lt. Michael Clark, CAC-7’s Tactical Coordinator, “An open white 19 foot long skiff with a single outboard motor and a chainsaw onboard.”
Naval Air Crewman Operator (AWO) 2nd Class Peter Shephard spotted a small vessel on the surface while utilizing the P-8A Poseidon’s radar system. Shepard captured an Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar (ISAR) image of the small skiff.
ISAR is a radar technique using radar imaging to generate a two-dimensional high-resolution image of a target. From the imagery, the crew was able to determine that the radar contact was a small vessel drifting with the ocean currents. Although outside of their generated search area the crew determined it was worth investigating.
The crew flew inbound at 200 feet above the water to investigate the contact. After several low passes over the skiff, AWO3 Tyler Wooldridge, operating the camera, was able to confirm it was the missing mariner.
Clark went on to explain the poor condition of the mariner, “He looked totally depleted; it was unclear whether he had any food or water in the last couple of days. He just slumped over and basically collapsed once it was clear we had seen him,” said Clark.
The crew then proceeded to tactically deploy a SAR kit containing a raft with food, water and first aid accessories, in the vicinity of the isolated skiff. CAC-7 then contacted FSS Micronesia, the surface vessel participating in the search, roughly 25 nautical miles from their location. The Micronesia arrived at approximately 3:15 p.m. local time to rescue the stranded mariner.
Clark said, “It was enormously satisfying for all the crew to be working together to save a life. We expertly developed and executed a search plan in coordination with the Federated States of Micronesia National Police and found the missing mariner within an hour of searching.”
CAC-7 remained on scene throughout the rescue by the Federated States of Micronesia National Police and were “thrilled to hear that the mariner is doing well after receiving medical attention,” added Clark.
VP-45, based out of Naval Air Station Jacksonville, is currently operating from Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan. The squadron conducts maritime patrol and reconnaissance as well as theater outreach operations as part of a rotational deployment to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.