Updated: October 8, 2022
A team of personnel from four partner nations responded to a simulated mass recovery operation at sea exercise as a part of exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022, on July 15.
The evolution included two phases: recovering 10 simulated casualties from the open ocean and providing follow-on medical triage to those notional patients.
The mass recovery operation – a first-time event for RIMPAC – included participants from Australia, Japan, Republic of Korea and the US. The operation was also a joint event; it included members of the US Coast Guard, Army and Navy working beside the other partner nation participants.
“This exercise has improved our search and rescue capabilities in the Pacific,” said Japan Maritime Self Defense Force Ship JS Izumo (DDH 183) Commanding Officer, Capt. Kojo Hisanori. “The region is vast, and cooperation with the maritime forces of regional countries is key to successful search and rescue operations. The fact that the JMSDF and the U.S. Coast Guard completed a combined exercise as part of this effort shows the high quality of search and rescue capabilities in the region and the existence of adaptable partners.”
The exercise kicked off with Izumo receiving a simulated distress call from a notional capsized fishing vessel, played by US Coast Guard Cutter William Hart (WPC 1134), that Izumo immediately reported to the US Coast Guard Rescue Coordination Center (RCC). US Coast Guard Cutter Midgett (WMSL 757) joined the search and launched an embarked US Navy MH-60R helicopter. Both surface vessels followed search patterns provided by the RCC, which are custom-created based on environmental conditions to maximize the chance of a successful recovery.
“Search and rescue is one of the Coast Guard’s core capabilities,” said Midgett Commanding Officer Capt. Willie Carmichael. “RIMPAC’s focus on capable, adaptable partners is on full display in this operation: our crews coordinated with the Izumo to successfully locate, rescue, and treat the distressed mariners. This is a very realistic scenario that prepares us for our upcoming western Pacific patrol, where we’ll be collaborating with the maritime forces of a number of countries.”
Once the ships and aircraft found the simulated casualties in the open water, both ships launched small boats to complete the recoveries. When the simulated survivors were on deck, the crews assessed the notional injuries and coordinated transport to a ship with surgical facilities. US Army helicopters from the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade landed on Izumo and ferried the injured to amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2).
Aboard Essex, there were upwards of 80 medical personnel, including two Australian military medical professionals, US Navy Fleet Surgical Team 5, the US Army’s 8th Forward Resuscitative Surgical Detachment, 20 medics, and one physician’s assistant from the US Army’s 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, standing by to assist. Five military chaplains – three from the Republic of Korea, and two from the US Navy – were present to provide religious support to the medical responders as well as the notional patients who were being treated.
Twenty-six nations, 38 ships, four submarines, more than 30 unmanned systems, approximately 170 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC from June 29 to Aug. 4 in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California.
The world’s largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity while fostering and sustaining cooperative relationships among participants critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world’s oceans. RIMPAC 2022 is the 28th exercise in the series that began in 1971.