Pacific Partnership 2016 completes first live SAR FTX

Pacific Partnership service members from New Zealand, the U.S. and Australia supported a Da Nang border guard-led Search and Rescue Field Training Exercise (SAR FTX) July 26 that began on the Han River and concluded aboard Vietnam people’s navy hospital ship Khanh Hoa and USNS Mercy (T-AH 19).

The FTX was the result of several months of planning between the Da Nang People’s Committee, the Da Nang border guard, the Da Nang 115 Emergency Center and the Pacific Partnership Humanitarian Assistance Disaster Relief (HADR) team. The exercise aimed to enhance the command, leadership and incident management capacity of local government agencies involved in disaster management and SAR operations, and allow partner nations the opportunity to integrate their skill sets as required. In all, more than 120 civilian and military personnel participated in the exercise.

“The FTX was considered a capstone event across the HADR focus area and incorporated a joint interagency exercise led by the Da Nang border guard command,” said Maj. Andrew Brooks, New Zealand defense force and Pacific Partnership 2016 HADR lead for Vietnam events. “Pacific Partnership provided direct support to Da Nang border guard to ensure the SAR FTX was a successful event and achieved the border guard’s aims and objectives safely and effectively.”

The exercise consisted of two scenarios, which simulated the after effects of a devastating typhoon in Da Nang. Exercise participants responded to a ship with a simulated inoperable engine that was drifting with survivors aboard, and local fisherman in the water requiring rescue and medical care. The second scenario required participants to respond to a burning vessel with injured crew members aboard and in the water.

In both instances the responses were facilitated by the combined efforts of Da Nang border guard SAR boats working alongside Mercy rescue boats — a first for Pacific Partnership — and delivered Vietnamese personnel ashore to joint U.S. and Vietnamese casualty stations to receive and treat the injured. In some cases the injured were transported by land or water to Khanh Hoa or Mercy to receive additional medical care. Aboard Mercy, Helicopter Sea Combat (HSC) Squadron 21 operated an SH-60S helicopter to emulate rotary wing medical evacuations of patients from shore to ship.

“The border guard’s aim of this exercise was to safely rescue and provide medical treatment for victims of a natural disaster within the maritime environment,” said Brooks. “This was successfully achieved by a collaborative effort to coordinate the safe rescue of affected mariners and to ensure that they received timely and appropriate medical treatment.”

Pacific Partnership departed Da Nang July 28 for another mission stop in Malaysia, and tank landing ship JS Shimokita (LST 4002) will head to Palau to carry out medical, engineering and HADR subject matter expert exchanges and cooperative health engagements alongside military and civilian counterparts in each nation.