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NASL reestablishes search and rescue unit

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NASL reestablishes search and rescue unit

Postby ERIC » Mon Oct 22, 2012 12:39 pm

Navy to the rescue
NASL reestablishes search and rescue unit at ceremony

October 20, 2012 9:00 am • By Mike Eiman
Hanford Sentinel ... f887a.html

NAVAL AIR STATION LEMOORE — After eight years out of commission, search and rescue is officially back at Naval Air Station Lemoore.

The base officially established its new search and rescue unit, “The Wranglers,” at a ceremony Friday afternoon. The unit consists of two Sikorsky MH-60S Seahawk helicopters along with 30 active-duty Navy pilots, aircrew and hospital corpsman. About 40 civilian personnel are employed by the unit’s maintenance and logistics support contractor.

The Wranglers will provide search and rescue coverage for the 16 strike fighter squadrons based in Lemoore, covering inland training ranges from the Central Coast to the high Sierras. It will also assist federal, state and local agencies with search and rescue operations.

NASL had a search and rescue unit from 1963 until it was decommissioned in 2004, saving $3.2 million per year. Capt. Eric Venema, commanding officer at NASL, said base officials began working on bringing search and rescue back to Lemoore almost immediately after it was decommissioned in 2004.

“For too long we have assumed the unnecessary risk of lacking the capability to rescue downed aviators,” Venema said.

The ceremony’s guest speaker, retired Navy helicopter pilot Lt. Cmdr. Chuck Taylor, ended his 22-year Navy career with the Lemoore search and rescue unit. In 1991, he was awarded the CNO Aviator Valor Award by the American Legion Aviators’ Post 743 for a rescue in North Palisade, Calif.

“I’m so happy that the Lemoore SAR is back,” Taylor said. “It’s going to be providing a united service to the base, to the community and to the Valley.”

Taylor emphasized to the new crew members how “it’s all about the training,” not only because it will prepare them for the unexpected, but because they never know who will be watching from afar. He recommended that the crew watch a YouTube video of a search and rescue unit that was flying too low and too slow.

“When you’re up there, somebody somewhere is going to be taking video and taking pictures,” Taylor said. “That didn’t happen back when I was out there.”

Several of the former crew members also attended Friday’s ceremony.

Robert Castleberry, a rescue crew chief from 1977 to 1980, said he conducted about 47 rescues during his time with the Lemoore SAR unit. He said he was upset when he learned the unit had been disbanded.

“It was a pretty sad day because it doesn’t take a week to build a SAR unit,” Castleberry said. “It takes years and years and years to establish procedures, train crews and hone your techniques. To see it all go away — I think it was really a budget thing where the Marines wanted their helicopters back.”

Another former crew chief, Steve Winiecki, recalled one rescue in August 1980 that involved a high school science teacher and three teenage boys who ran into trouble on a mountain in Sequoia National Park.

“They climbed up the back side of Alta Peak and they attempted to climb down the face,” Winiecki said. “The face is the steep part. [READ MORE]
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Re: NASL reestablishes search and rescue unit

Postby BrianF » Mon Oct 22, 2012 3:04 pm

Good news, I know YOSAR used them quite a bit for some hair raising rescues off the big walls. When the time comes it is always great to have resources like that available.
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