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Air Station Elizabeth City was established at the beginning of World War II when the German U-boats were wreaking havoc off the Outer Banks. Their primary mission involved anti-submarine warfare. Even in the beginning, the Air Station was also involved in search and rescue, and seamen from torpedoed ships and at least one U-boat crew owed their lives to the Coast Guard.


McCormick led the way to a large hanger where


the base’s MH-60T helicopters, the “Jayhawks,” were being serviced. Described as the world’s premier search and rescue helicopter, Elizabeth City Air Station houses five of them, providing search and rescue response from north of Ocean City, Maryland, to the North Carolina/South Carolina border. In extreme circumstances they can be deployed to points east of Bermuda. In addition to search and rescue, the Jayhawks are also used in law enforcement.


The Lieutenant took me to an adjoining hanger, which appeared to cover an area equal to about two full-size football fields. There, the huge C-130 Hercules are serviced. McCormick pilots one of those four-engine monsters.


In addition to search and rescue—and the


rescue swimmers are trained here and do their risky work in often extremely choppy seas—Air Station Elizabeth City is charged with port security, counter-narcotics measures, fisheries protection,


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and alien migrant interception. They also fly out of St. John’s, Newfoundland, to track icebergs that might be a threat to major shipping lanes. In support of NOAA, pilots from the Air Station track whale migrations, and conduct over-flights after a storm to make sure navigational aids are on station and operating.


Always Ready to Rescue


Just one example of the coordination and speed with which the Coast Guard goes to work: This summer a 26-foot boat with seven people aboard began sinking 14 miles off Cape Hatteras. The Coast Guard was contacted, and immediately a 25-foot Coast Guard response boat was launched, along with a 47-foot motor lifeboat from the Coast Guard Station at Hatteras Inlet. Also, from Elizabeth City Air Station, an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter flew down to the site of the boat in distress to assist if necessary. Six of the boaters were taken aboard the 25-foot response boat, while Petty Officer 1st Class Mark Burgoa from the response boat boarded the distressed vessel and helped the captain bail water until the 47-foot motor lifeboat arrived, attached a line to the sinking vessel and towed it into harbor. Everyone was safe.


As Petty Officer 2nd Class Scott Hunter, the cox- swain aboard the response boat said, “That is why we train and practice every day, so that when we do get that call, the response is second nature.”


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