Thankfully, Search and Rescue (SAR) is not a frequently used skill in the Navy; however, it is one of the most important to maintain. Every two years a ship’s SAR program undergoes an evaluation by Afloat Training Group (ATG) to appraise the ship’s readiness to conduct SAR missions. The program is managed by the SAR Officer, ENS Elizabeth Spangenberg and is executed by Deck Division, led by BMCS (SW/AW) Jerome Bryan. The four rescue swimmers onboard are EN2 (SW) Jeremy Luallen, EN3 Tomas Melendez, SN Andrew Habib, and BMSA (SW) Raymond Herrera III.
On March 9th VANDEGRIFT began her two-day, two-part Certification with administrative and equipment checks as well as survivor rescue demonstrations from both the ship and the ship’s small boat. Both demonstrations were extremely successful. The SAR swimmers evaluated were SN Habib and BMSA (SW) Herrera and the Foc’sle crew was led by BM2 (SW) Richard Garcia as Safety Officer and BM3 Anthony Lee as Petty Officer in Charge. There were zero safety discrepancies and the assessors emphasized in their outbrief how impressed they were with the training and preparedness of the team.
The following day consisted of an assessment of all four SAR swimmers at the ATG training pool. They took a Physical Fitness Test (PFT), which included a 500M swim in full gear immediately followed by a 400M swim towing another person. They were then required to conduct different types of rescues, review general medical procedures, and take a 50-question Level of Knowledge Exam. Each of them passed with flying colors, making VANDEGRIFT qualified to safely conduct Search and Rescue operations!
SN Habib emphasized, “I train as much as possible and work to be the best because we never know when we might have to save someone’s life.” BMSN Herrera added, “Saving a life is not just about the swimmers in the water; every person on the foc’sle crew, small boat crews, and even bridge teams have to continuously train so that it is second nature.”
This certification is a great achievement for the ship. BRAVO ZULU to Deck Division and our superb SAR swimmers for a job well done!!