Unexpected rescue mission saves four lives

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Senior Master Sgt. Angel Correa. Credit: Defense Department

Senior Master Sgt. Angel Correa, who is an airborne sensor operator and linguist with the Host Nation Rider programme – a component of the larger National Guard Counterdrug programme – played in instrumental role in the recent rescue of four people from a capsized boat.

The small boat capsized off Costa Rica's southern coast in mid-October and Correa saw the incident from a US Coast Guard HC-130J Super Hercules aircraft. “We were flying about 500 feet above water when they started signalling to us,” Correa said.

At the time, the air crew was engaged in a routine counterdrug patrol over the Gulf of Mexico, which then turned into a rescue mission. “We had the capability to immediately assist for this event,” said Correa. “By the time we made our first turn back to the boat, water was getting inside [the boat].” Correa said that on the second turn back, the boat was starting to sink, and on the third and final turn, the boat had capsized.

Correa broadcasted an emergency message on the international distress frequency and gave the position of where the boat was to the captain of a fishing vessel who responded to the call but didn’t have a visual on the capsized boat. Correa vectored the captain to the location while making contact with Costa Rican authorities. The fishing vessel crew arrived at the boat's location and saved the four passengers. “I was the only Air Guardsman and I had only been on one operation with one of the Coast Guard crew members before,” Correa said. “But the way everybody clicked during the mission, and the training involved, made all the difference.”

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