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Petty Officer 1st Class Jason Conley (left), Search and Rescue corpsman, guides the crew chief above in the UH-1N Huey helicopter after attaching himself to Petty Officer 3rd Class Lon Souder, SAR corpsman, near Lake Martinez on July 27. Souder is training to become a qualified SAR corpsman.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Megan Angel

Lifesaving team serves deserts of Arizona

27 Jul 2006 | Lance Cpl. Megan Angel

Search and Rescue is depended on to provide support for military personnel here and is sometimes called upon by civilians.

The Marines and corpsmen train every day, going out in the UH-1N Huey helicopters and conducting technical rescue exercises to maximize the skills and techniques that are fundamental for saving lives. It involves teamwork, patience and precision.

This year SAR has had 19 rescues, said Cpl. Kory Cox, SAR crew chief. SAR averages from 20 to 40 rescues per year.

SAR conducts training throughout the day as well as during the night for more difficult rescue training.

It takes approximately six weeks for pilots to be fully trained and around eight months for the crew chief, said Sgt. William A. Smith, SAR flight clearance chief.

Corpsman must go through a week of special training in San Diego, said Louder. This is where the corpsman learn the standardization of training, equipment and procedures.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Lon Souder, SAR corpsman, is training to become an official qualified part of the SAR crew.

It takes about six months to become completely qualified as a SAR corpsman, said Louder.

The day starts out with the flight crew holding a brief before the flight to check the weather, decide where to go and pass on information, said Smith. The crew consists of two pilots, a crew chief and a corpsman.

“We will practice landing the helicopter in tight areas and perform technical rescues,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Jason Conley, SAR corpsman. “It’s great practice for everyone in the crew.”

Technical rescues such as rescuing a victim trapped down in a tight area. The corpsman will rappel down from the helicopter to maneuver the rescue, said Conley. Doing these kinds of rescues and practicing every day makes real-life situations less stressful.

“Doing them over and over makes the difficult rescues easy,” said Conley.

SAR’s main mission is to help military personnel, but sometimes SAR is called out by civilians for assistance.

Some of SAR’s common rescues include people hiking or trapped with no water, boating accidents and car accidents, said Cox.

“We get called out to the sand dunes a lot of the time,” said Conley. “The civilian helicopters often get sand in the engines and break down because they aren’t equipped for that.”

The crew chief helps the pilots maneuver the helicopter over the target area, said Sgt. Adrian Flores, SAR crew chief. There is constant communication between the pilots, crew chief and corpsman because they all rely on each other.

“Being a part of SAR can be hard work, but it can also be a lot of fun,” said Conley.
“Teamwork is what makes the whole thing possible.”

The station’s SAR team is the most active UH-1N Huey helicopter rescue station in the Marine Corps, said Conley. It also has a mishap-free record.

The everyday training, teamwork and dedication of the Marines and corpsman of SAR is depended upon to save lives.

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