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NEWS | March 12, 2024

U.S. Coast Guard member safely evacuated in joint operation with Navy's HSC-25 near Guam

By Josiah Moss, U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia / Sector Guam

On March 6, 2024, the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy's Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25 (HSC-25) effectively evacuated a Coast Guard member from the USCGC Polar Star (WAGB 10), 100 nautical miles south of Guam, in a joint effort.

"We're incredibly grateful to HSC-25 for jumping in quickly and skillfully to help evacuate our crew member. Their professionalism and dedication made all the difference in ensuring a successful outcome. This operation truly showcases how our service members look out for each other's safety and well-being at sea," said Capt. Keith Ropella, commanding officer of Polar Star.

The incident began on March 5, 2024, when the Joint Rescue Sub-Center (JRSC) Guam received a communication from the Polar Star crew regarding a 43-year-old man aboard experiencing severe abdominal pain. Recognizing the need for urgent medical attention beyond the capabilities available on ship, watchstanders directed the cutter to reroute closer to Guam and initiate a medical evacuation.

In a swift response, JRSC Guam assumed mission coordination duties. Working with the cutter command, the medical officer aboard Polar Star, and the HSC-25 duty flight surgeon (DFS), the watchstanders seamlessly facilitated communications between all involved parties, ensuring a smooth transition of responsibilities and effective mission planning.

On the evening of March 6, an HSC-25 aircrew rendezvoused with the Polar Star, successfully hoisted the ill member from the cutter, and airlifted him safely to Guam. The crew transferred him to awaiting personnel at U.S. Naval Hospital Guam in stable condition.

"This operation stands as a testament to the seamless collaboration and unparalleled skill of our U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy personnel. The swift and efficient evacuation of our crew members underlines our unwavering commitment to the health and safety of every service member. I am deeply proud of our teams and thankful for HSC-25's immediate response and expertise, which were critical in ensuring the well-being of our personnel at sea," said Capt. Nick Simmons, commander of U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam.

Homeported in Seattle, the Polar Star is the United States' only heavy icebreaker. The cutter is returning from their annual mission to McMurdo Station, Antarctica, for Operation Deep Freeze, breaking miles of ice up to 21 feet thick to allow for the resupply of the base.

This is HSC-25s fourth medical mission since early February. Over the weekend, they responded to a short-fuse request for a non-maritime medical transfer from Saipan to Guam, facilitating essential medical care for a community member.


About U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam

The U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam team focuses on maritime safety, security, and stewardship in Oceania. With a primary presence in Guam and Saipan and around 300 members across Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the team maintains a strong U.S. presence in the Micronesia sub-region and adjacent areas, closely tied to local communities.

About U.S. Navy Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 25

U.S. Navy Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 25, known as the "Island Knights," is a critical MH-60S Knighthawk expeditionary helicopter squadron based at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. As the island's sole permanently stationed naval aviation and rotary wing asset, HSC-25 is vital in supporting the U.S. 7th Fleet. The squadron provides combat-ready crews and aircraft for various operations, including combat logistics, search and rescue, and humanitarian assistance.