Coast Guard Search-and-Rescue Unit to Be Disbanded - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

09/22/04

Coast Guard Search-and-Rescue Unit to Be Disbanded

The Department of the Navy is disbanding another unit at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort. A few months ago, it was VFA 82; now it's the 65-member search-and-rescue squadron Angel One. From what officials are saying, it's about money and manpower. But in any case, this move could really hurt the community.

"First of all, it's more cost effective to do so," said Capt. Don Caetano. "It costs about $17 million a year to keep the Beaufort search and rescue operating. Second of all, it's manpower issues, being that we can use the pilots and other enlisted mechanics and aircrew elsewhere to units that are deployable."

Although Angel One rescue helicopters are over 40 years old, they flew nearly 70 missions in the past year, many of which were out in the community, from rescuing stranded boaters to medivac emergencies.

"When we have bad weather, and we have a bad motor vehicle accident, Angel One will fly when no one else will and they've been a real big asset to us," said Chief Clayton Ellis of the Lady's Island Fire District.

Not only are first responders concerned, but so are those on the Military Enhancement Committee, who are fighting to protect the bases from the next round of closures. However, they're trying to be optimistic.

"It can't be all negative, because it will free up some space that we could use to take additional squadrons here," said the MEC's John Payne.

In April 2005, Angel One will be grounded, and by October, the squadron will be disbanded. The Coast Guard based in Savannah will respond to emergencies in the water and regional Air Force aircraft will respond to those emergencies on land.

Reported by: Jaime Dailey, jdailey@wtoc.com

Powered by Frankly