Rescue Drill in Hong Kong

About 450 members of the Alaska Air National Guard’s 210th and 212th Rescue Squadrons in Anchorage and the Coast Guard’s District 14 in Honolulu, Hawaii, and their helicopters are taking part in this week’s SAREX humanitarian search and rescue exercise in Hong Kong with units from Hong Kong’s Government Flying Service. During the event, the participants are exchanging information on the procedures and techniques that they use to search for and rescue personnel who have been missing at sea or are on vessels needing assistance. US personnel have participated in the past in SAREX. But this year, for the first time, the US participants arrived a week early to spend time with their hosts and get to know them. “I think this extra week was well worth it,” said Lt. Col. Tim O’Brien, 210th RQS commander. He said the GFS hosts invited the US crews to take part in activities such as familiarization flights on GFS helicopters and even ride along on actual rescue missions. And the down time that the two sides spent trading stories and experiences has been invaluable, O’Brien said. “Sitting here with these guys has been fabulous,” he explained. Interestingly, China suspended other military-to-military exchanges with the US earlier this month after the White House announced a new $6.5 billion sale of defensive arms to Taiwan. (Hong Kong report by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Ray Mooney)