Pacific Air Commandos, Kadena Airmen recognized for ocean rescue

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Aaron Cram
  • 353rd Special Operations Group
The 353rd Special Operations Group Commander recognized Airmen here Feb. 19 for their efforts during a September 2008 rescue mission on a ship in the Pacific Ocean.

Col. David Mullins, the Group Commander, presented Air Medals, Air Force Commendation Medals and Air Force Achievement Medals to Airmen from the 353rd SOG and 18th Wing for their various duties during the rescues operations aboard the Occam's Razor. The ship was en route to Chile when two crew members were injured in a crane accident while sailing about 1,200 miles east of Okinawa and 500 miles north of Guam, and required immediate medical attention.

"There's nothing better than being able to stand here today and recognize these outstanding Airmen for their heroic efforts during this rescue mission," Col. Mullins said. "These individuals gave their all throughout this operation and one person is alive today because of these individuals exceptional performance."

Senior Master Sgt. Thomas Rich, 31st Rescue Squadron, Master Sgt. Brandon Casteel, 18th Operations Group, Tech. Sgt. Beau Wagner, 320th Special Tactics Squadron, Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Hedglin, 31st RQS, and Staff Sgt. Ivan Eggel, 31st RQS, were the pararescuemen that jumped from the MC-130H Combat Talon II, and were awarded the Air Medal for their actions during the rescue mission. During the mission, the pararescuemen overcame initial complications with their Riggable Alternate Method Zodiac packages, consisting of inflatable zodiac boats and engines, in heavy winds and six-foot seas. Once onboard, the team provided more than 32 continuous hours of medical care, which included about 80 minutes of continuous CPR, before exfiltrating the patients by helicopter to a medical facility in Guam.

Maj. Jason Self, 320th STS, and Capt. Jonathan Harmon, 31st RQS, were awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal for their efforts as mission planners and air and rescue mission commanders during the operation. The two officers quickly assessed to situations and coordinated all mission-specific requirements to enable the combined rescue team was ready to launch six hours from the initial notification. During the mission, Maj. Self and Capt. Harmon provided command and control by making time-sensitive decisions and coordination efforts key to first-ever deployment of RAMZ packages for a real-world rescue mission and safe patient extraction from the ship.

Senior Airman Jeremy King, 320th STS, was awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal for his actions as a combat control operator during the rescue mission. After jumping from the MC-130H Combat Talon II, he quickly worked to establish communication to facilitate command and control for the operation even though his radio equipment was lost due to complications with the first RAMZ package. After successfully helping deploy the second RAMZ package, Airman King served as the primary drop zone controller directing three re-supply drops of necessary medical equipment. After providing assistance to the pararescuemen during the 32 hours of medical care, he served as the vital communications link between the vessel and naval helicopter extracting the injured sailors.

Lt. Col. Chetan Kharod, 353rd Operations Support Squadron, Maj. Scott Cummis, 353rd OSS, and Capt. Theresa Hess, 31st RQS, were awarded Air Force Achievement Medals while providing medical oversight from the group's Special Operations Center to the pararescuemen onboard the Occam's Razor for more than 32 hours. The three doctors quickly assessed the injured sailors' medical conditions and provided key advice to the commander for pre-mission risk assessment. After coordinating extra medical supplies the pararescuemen needed for the mission, the doctors medically controlled the operation using intermittent satellite communications to assist the rescue team onboard the ship. When intravenous fluids become desperately low on the ship, the team of doctors instructed the pararescuemen on how to create an oral rehydration solution using nonmedical supplies from the ship sustaining the life of the most critically injured patient.

Airman 1st Class Daniel Shimanski, 18th Aerospace Medical Squadron, was awarded Air Force Achievement Medal for his work as a translator during the rescue operation. Initial planning for the operation was hindered by the language barrier between the mission planners and the Ukrainian crew of the ship. Airman Shimanski's proficiency in the Russian language was critical to flawlessly relaying the intricacies of the rescue operations to the Ukrainian crew. His ability allowed critical information of the ship's medical capabilities, boarding options, direction, and speed to be passed to the rescue crew on the MC-130H.