Kadena Pave Hawk Save Downed Osprey Crew
USAF 33rd and 31st Rescue Squadrons based at Kadena AFB, Japan rescued five crew of a Marine VMM-265 squadron MV-22B Osprey after an emergency landing into the Pacific Ocean near Camp Schwab off Okinawa
* Osprey crash off the coast of Okinawa occurred while the crew was conducting an aerial refueling operation at night and damaged the aircraft, with the crew choosing to land the aircraft in the water instead of risking flying over civilian homes on the Japanese island, the commanding general of III Marine Expeditionary Force said in a press conference
US Air Force, December 15, 2016 - KADENA, OKINAWA, JAPAN by Senior Airman Lynette Rolen - Airmen from the 33rd and 31st Rescue Squadron rush to their stations upon hearing the notification, ready to save lives.
The five crew members of an MV-22 Osprey were all safely rescued from the relentless Pacific Ocean.
“My crew and I had just finished flying on a training mission,” said Maj. Anibal Aguirre, 33rd RQS weapons and tactics officer. “We had been sent home when we were notified through our maintenance personnel that an incident happened. The maintenance crews were ready to go so we did a recall of our crews and coordinated with different authorities and units.”
Within an hour of the recall notification, 33rd and 31st RQS members were in the air searching for the crew in the pitch-black of night, above the endless ocean. The squadrons worked with the 353rd Special Operations Group, Japan Air Self-Defense Force and Japan Coast Guard throughout the rescue.
Upon finding the aircraft’s crew, the rescue squadron members realized the Osprey landed on a shallow reef, which presented rescuers with a unique situation.
“Every situation is going to be different,” said Staff Sgt. Sterling Brisbin, 31st RQS pararescueman. “In this case it was unique since the MV-22 impacted shallow reef, so it wasn’t really on land, but it also wasn’t in the ocean. It was a unique environment where we’re hoisting down into the water that might only be one or two feet deep and there’s boulders all over the place. We had to move through the terrain and bring the helicopters in and execute the hoist safely…while at night.”
Brisbin further commented that some of the aircrew managed to get themselves out of the wreck, but they were either on top of the aircraft or on rocks surrounding it.
“It felt amazing to help them,” said Brisbin. “Those guys were in a rough spot and were super tough, but some of them were pretty badly hurt, they were out on the reef in the cold of night. So to be able to be the pararescueman who gets them safely into the helicopter and taken care of felt great.”
All five members of the crew were transferred to Camp Foster Naval Hospital for medical treatment. Two of the crew members were injured and are now in stable condition, but the other three were released from the hospital.
Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk 91-26406 Bell MV-22B Osprey 168027
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33 RQS 33d Rescue Squadron US Air Force
31st RQS 31st Rescue Squadron US Air Force
VMM-265 Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 US Marine Corps