NAVAL AIR STATION WHIDBEY ISLAND, Wash. – A Search and Rescue (SAR) MH-60S helicopter and team of six from Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island conducted a Training Exercise with multiple state assets on Hurricane Ridge near Port Angeles, Wash. on Thursday, January 12th, 2017.
After weeks of coordination, the unit met with Olympic National Park Rangers and numerous other agencies to conduct interoperability training. Training included a discussion of the capabilities and limitations of each unit in attendance and the various response availabilities. Even more specifically, the teams focused on the unique challenges encountered during rescues on the Olympic Peninsula and how to best employ each asset. In addition to the Navy’s helicopter, another from Airlift Northwest was on scene; ground assets were briefed on the features of each and were able to look around their unique configurations. After the ground meetings concluded, there was an aerial demonstration of the typical sequence of events used for a rescue that could be encountered on the Olympic Peninsula.
“This type of training is an invaluable tool that our unit relies on. SAR missions are never a ‘one person show’ and because of that, we rely on so many organizations to help get those in need back to their families and loved ones.” said Search and Rescue Copilot Lieutenant Mark Hlousek.
Olympic National Park Ranger Sanny Lustig added, “Often Search and Rescue incidents in Olympic National Park rely on a multi-agency response, and our recent training was a great opportunity for substantive pre-planning. We look forward to working with the Navy and all the represented agencies both in training and on incidents in the future. This training day that included resources from the Navy, Coast Guard, Airlift Northwest, Clallam County SAR, Clallam County Fire District 2, Olympic Mountain Rescue, Hurricane Ridge Ski Patrol, and Olympic National Park was an unprecedented success!”
The Navy SAR unit operates three MH-60S helicopters from NAS Whidbey Island as search and rescue platforms for the EA-18G aircraft as well as other squadrons and personnel assigned to the installation. The base also has an agreement to assist Washington State and the surrounding areas with medical evacuations and search and rescue activities if other assets are unavailable.