A search-and-rescue team from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island conducted two missions during the last week of 2021 followed by two more in the first week of 2022.
Both 2022 missions were medical evacuations. One was from Coupeville on Jan 5 for a six-year old boy suffering from pneumonia; the other was from Lopez Island for a 73- year old woman suffering cardiac complications.
The NAS Whidbey Island SAR team received notification for assistance for the child in Coupeville while on a training mission just before 2:30 p.m. After refueling, the team proceeded directly to Whidbey General Hospital in Coupeville and then flew the boy to Seattle Children’s Hospital in Seattle.
For the Lopez Island request, NAS Whidbey Island was able to transport the patient from Lopez Airfield to St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Bellingham at approximately 3:30 p.m.
NAS Whidbey Island’s SAR unit closed out 2021 with another medical evacuation from Coupeville to Swedish Medical Center in Seattle for a 72-year-old man who suffered a severe stroke on Jan. 30. The day prior, a SAR team rescued a man who suffered a broken leg in the Cascades, approximately 15 miles north of Berdeen Lake, and flew him to St. Joseph’s Medical Center.
Naval Air Station Whidbey Island SAR conducted 54 missions in 2021, which includes 14 medical evacuations, 35 rescues and five searches.
The Navy SAR unit operates three MH-60S helicopters from NAS Whidbey Island as search and rescue/medical evacuation platforms for the EA-18G aircraft as well as other squadrons and personnel assigned to the installation.
Pursuant to the National SAR Plan of the United States, the unit may also be used for civil search and rescue and medical evacuations to the fullest extent practicable on a non-interference basis with primary military duties according to applicable national directives, plans, guidelines and agreements; specifically, the unit may launch in response to tasking by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (based on a Washington State Memorandum of Understanding) for inland missions, and/or tasking by the Coast Guard for all other aeronautical and maritime regions, when other assets are unavailable.