The Coast Guard: Always Ready - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

02/21/06

The Coast Guard: Always Ready

Many of us know what the 3rd ID and the Marines out of Beaufort County do for our area and the country. But do you know all that the Coast Guard does?

We've all seen that familiar orange helicopter buzzing down the Savannah River, and often wondered where they're heading. At any given time, there's a crew ready to tackle any emergency out on the vast expanse of the Atlantic ocean.

GuardsmanTodd Sokalzuk says the training never stops, "It's a constant cycle of preparation. We have five helicopters here and we always have one here ready to be launched 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year."

Coast Guard Air Station Savannah, and their counterparts on Tybee Island, are always on watch.

Petty Officer 3rd class Matthew Laub is an Aviation Survival Technician, "Anything up and down this coastline we cover, sinking boats, medevacs offshore, there's so much water and so many different scenarios that could possibly happen on your duty day."

They certainly stay busy. In five years, the crews based in Savannah flew more than 15-hundred missions, saving 128 lives. Often, those emergencies come under extreme circumstances. Laub says there are stranded boats in calm waters that don't have that sense of urgency but there's also the opposite end of the spectrum, "You never know when something could come up."

Sokalzuk agrees, "The crew went out in about 20 foot seas, middle of the night, flew through two lines of thunderstorms in and out, to rescue a man who'd fallen off the boat."

Because of that uncertainty about when and where they'll be needed, the Coast Guard excels at working as a team, "Pretty standard during the week everyday, there's some training flights going on. The boat crews out there on station Tybee, go and up and down the coast we cover. They've got to stay proficient with the helicopter operations too, so we work out with them pretty frequently."

Those rescues are usually the most visible duties of the coast guard but over the last few years their focus has expanded. Crews from the Coast Guard in Florida all the way up the coast are the country's first line of defense in the war on drugs. And in this post 911 era, they've been given homeland security issues to take care of too.

Laub says it adds up to one of the most flexible arms in the entire military, "We fly with amazing air crews. These guys are always backing you up if they see something I don't see, or vice versa. We all work as a team and it works out pretty smoothly."

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