Water Rescue Me

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Matt Hecht
  • 177th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
"The town is yours, gentlemen!" proclaimed Port Republic, N.J. Mayor Gary B. Giberson. On Aug 9., members of the 119th Fighter Squadron were met by Giberson at Harry Bowen Memorial Park along the Mullica River, for a day that saw the local community, the New Jersey Air National Guard, and the U.S. Coast Guard come together for a joint water rescue training exercise.

Airmen from the Aircrew Flight Equipment shop coordinated the event, which is a tri-annual requirement for the Wing's F-16C Fighting Falcon pilots. Shop members spent the morning assembling the gear needed for the day, including a parachute suspension system, flight harnesses, and life rafts.

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Jason Giocanda, non-commissioned officer in charge of the Aircrew Flight Equipment shop, commended Port Republic for their aid in providing a safe place to fulfill the training.

"The location was perfect," said Giocanda. "The city of Port Republic was extremely accommodating, getting us easy access to parking and the boat ramp. This type of joint training is not only exciting for everyone involved, it's also important for our pilots to know what to expect in the event they find themselves in the water."

After a few hours of parachute release training and emergency raft operation, the U.S. Coast Guard arrived in an HH-65C Dolphin rescue helicopter.

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Gallinoto, an F-16C pilot, was the first airman to be hoisted onto the Dolphin.

"The hoist was an awesome experience.  I tried to imagine I was actually being hoisted in a non-training rescue scenario and how glad I would be to be safe in the hands of friendly forces," said Gallinoto.

"Besides the turbulent prop wash of the helicopter, the rescue basket felt stable as I was hoisted up and the hoist operator was welcoming as I approached the top."

"This was a great day of training for both units," said U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Jay Kircher, one of the Dolphin helicopter pilots involved in the exercise.

"The location of the exercise provided several challenges that we rarely have the ability to practice, mostly due to the high winds coming over the treetops and the need for a higher hoisting altitude. It was also a pleasure to assist our brothers and sisters of the 177th, with whom we share our home air field, in providing important rescue training. Nobody wishes that the training scenario of hoisting an ejected fighter pilot will ever be needed, but if it is, we hope that those pilots we plucked out of the river that day will be more comfortable with being hoisted in a real situation and that their rough day will start to improve dramatically."