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Yuma’s Eye in the Sky: MCAS Yuma’s Search and Rescue Team

By Pfc. George Melendez | Marine Corps Air Station Yuma | February 12, 2016

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Certain emergency situations call for a quick response from a team of highly trained specialists. For the area surrounding Yuma, Ariz., that quick response comes in the form of a unique team of Marines and sailors – The Marine Corps Air Station Yuma Search and Rescue unit.

In an effort to better understand the protocols of these military first responders, a group of representatives from regional entities gathered at MCAS Yuma for a conference hosted by SAR team members, Feb. 12, 2016.

The conference, held at the station Sonoran Pueblo Events Center and the station SAR hangar, aimed to inform attending emergency services personnel and organizations of SAR’s capabilities, tactics, techniques, procedures and protocols. The conference also provided an opportunity to improve working relationships between local area agencies by presenting a forum to learn, discuss and better understand the support SAR can provide.

The majority of assistance that SAR provides helps support regional emergencies that demand a set of specialized skills to deal with the rugged, mountainous and desert terrain.

“We hope to enhance the interoperability among regional rescue and emergency response agencies,” said Maj. Patrick DeGraaf, the SAR officer-in-charge and conference leader.

Emergency calls for assistance typically come from agencies within SAR’s area of operation, extending 100 nautical miles, and are then routed to an emergency dispatcher. If law enforcement agents on scene determine that SAR is a necessary asset, they will call the dispatch center to get in touch with base operations to request SAR assistance.

Quick response maintainers are always on call to prepare the aircraft for flight and help the crew get in the sky as quickly as possible. When the mission declared, SAR sends out a quick response crew made up of a pilot, co-pilot, crew chief and corpsman.

“Last year, we had 27 calls and rescued over 60 people,” said DeGraaf.

SAR has the ability to hoist, maneuver and reach tough spots in the Yuma terrain. They are trained to utilize first aid kits, stretchers, various braces and medical equipment needed to stabilize patients in any emergency situation.

“We have military training, which helps more on the tactical side, because we are able to quickly assess the situation and make a plan of action,” said DeGraaf.

All SAR unit team members are emergency medical technician (EMT) certified and are trained to handle basic life support, cardiac life support, pediatric advanced life support and trauma immobilization.

“I love seeing the benefits of my job. All that hard work we put in and all the qualification courses we’ve gone through,” said DeGraaf. “All those nights of flying until midnight, wearing myself out, just to get better at my job – all of it is so you can hear that the patient you dropped off at the hospital has made a full recovery.”

“Seeing how thankful these individuals are for going out and getting them. It really makes you feel good about your job and makes the job worthwhile,” said DeGraaf. “It makes me look forward to coming in to work every day.”
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