USS RENTZ, At Sea - During operations in direct support of Operation Martillo in the 4th Fleet area of operations Jan. 14, USS Rentz (FFG 46) and embedded helicopter detachment, led a speedy rescue of three deep sea ocean turtles approximately 80 nautical miles off the coast of Guatemala.
Operation Martillo targets illicit trafficking routes in coastal waters along the Central American isthmus, and is an international, interagency operation which includes the participation of 14 countries committed to a regional approach against transnational criminal organizations moving illicit cargo.
"As a maritime force operating above, below and on the ocean's surface, one of the major challenges we encounter is being able to train and operate while sharing the ocean with the myriad of marine mammals and amphibians that inhabit these waters," said Cmdr. Lance Lantier, commanding officer of USS Rentz.
While conducting a routine flight, Lt. j.g. Chris Gokey and his co-pilot, Chief Warrant Officer Rob Antonucci, spotted a debris field near a group of fishing buoys tethered together.
"Something looked very odd about these particular buoys," said Gokey. "We flew in for a closer look and noticed three large objects connected to the line of the fishing buoys."
The SH-60B anti-submarine patrol helicopter quickly relayed the position of the fishing buoys back to Rentz' anti-sub surface tactical air controller, Operations Specialist 2nd Class Zachary Gibson, quickly passed the information to the navigation team on the bridge.
"We plotted the position of the suspicious fishing buoys on our charts and directed a course to close the location," said the officer of the deck, Ensign Matt Trout.
Rentz swiftly closed the buoys and launched the rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RHIB) to investigate the situation. Upon further inspection, team-members aboard the RHIB discovered three trapped deep ocean sea turtles tangled in the line of the fishing buoys.
"I knew they were still alive once I saw their little fins moving in the water," said Lt. j.g. Michelle Webster, the RHIB's small boat officer.
After radioing back to the ship, the decision to free the trapped turtles was quickly approved by the frigate's commanding officer.
"In today's environment, it is expected that the United States Navy act as a good steward of the fragile ecosystems in which we operate," said Lantier. "Opportunities to save and help our oceanic friends are some of the easier decisions I can make as a commander onboard a U.S. Navy warship."
U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet supports U.S. Southern Command's joint and combined military operations by employing maritime forces in cooperative maritime security operations in order to maintain access, enhance interoperability, and build enduring partnerships in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions.