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Emergency Water Rescue Training Held By Coast Guard, Air National Guard

Aug 27, 2020 06:42AM ● By Editor

Photo: Fox 21

By C.J. Baumgartner of Fox 21 News - August 26, 2020

Lake Superior has been the location for some special training this week. The Coast Guard and some members of the 148th Fighter Wing of the Minnesota Air National Guard in Duluth came together to train for water rescues.

The main goal is for the two groups to be ready if called upon during a crisis.

Members of the coast guard made the trip from Traverse City, Michigan to help train 6 airmen from the 148th Fighter Wing for water rescue situations. A skill leaders of both groups say is valuable for helping civilians and service members when emergencies happen.

“You can brief it and talk about it all you want. Until you do it hands on practically in a real-time scenario, that’s where it makes an impact,” said Minnesota Air National Guard Chief of Staff Dan Gabrielli.

F-16s from the Duluth Fighter Unit locate the person in the water, the Coast Guard then finds them and aids the Air National Guard in airlifting them to safety. Crews got to practice airlifting each other, something that’s not always done in these training sessions.

“The flight mechanics are our eyes and ears,” said Lieutenant Junior Grade Alyssia LaMonaca, who also serves as the Public Affairs Officer at the Coast Guard Air Station in Traverse City. “We don’t see much of the hoisting area at all but for us up front, it gives us a better opportunity to be able to find people.”

This training is important for the coast guard, especially in a summer that’s seen an increase in water rescues.

“We’ve been a lot busier than usual. We say the months of June and July we had about 1-2 cases, probably about one case every week, where we were hoisting someone out of the water or something like that,” said LaMonaca.

Outside of rescuing civilians in the water, the training can also be used to help find pilots if they needed to eject over Lake Superior.

Gabrielli and other airmen haven’t done this particular type of training in years. So he says it’s great to get a hands-on look to build confidence in their abilities when called into action.

“Until you got that rotor blast and the water in your face and actually experiencing that, knowing that that feeling is normal under these circumstances all lends to a sense of comfort and predictability,” said Gabrielli.

The airmen who went to the training session will report back and help train the rest of the fighter wing. The Coast Guard will also be helping out with other training sessions around Lake Superior, with other stops in Bayfield, Portage, and Marquette.

To watch a video version of this report and see related stories, follow this link to the Fox 21 News website.

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