New Details: US Navy Sub-Killer Squadron Rescues 6 Missing Mariners

November 17, 2021Carl Prine
US Navy Patrol Squadron

Aircrew, maintainers, and combat support crew from the “Tridents” of US Navy Patrol Squadron 26 stand in front of a P-8A Poseidon plane shortly after the successful Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021, rescue of six missing mariners off the Mortlock Islands. US Navy photo by Lt. Mitchell Chen.

The US Navy released new details Tuesday, Nov. 16, revealing the role that a squadron best known for its secret missions hunting enemy submarines played in the Thursday rescue of six missing mariners in Micronesia.

“It was incredibly rewarding to be able to help save lives and ensure they made it home safely to their family and friends,” Lt. Alex Shaffer, the commander of the Boeing P-8A Poseidon aircrew credited with locating a skiff that had been missing for eight days, said in a prepared statement emailed to Coffee or Die Magazine.

The 23-foot vessel had lost power off Oneop Atoll in the Federated States of Micronesia and began drifting across the South Pacific. At 9:17 a.m. Chamorro Standard Time on Nov. 3, the mayor’s office on the atoll requested help from the watchstanders of US Coast Guard Forces Micronesia.

The Coast Guard scrambled a pair of Air Station Barbers Point HC-130 aircraft and diverted the cutters Frederick Hatch and Sequoia to join the patrol boat FSS Micronesia, an aircrew from the Caroline Islands, and an armada of local ships already hunting for the missing boat.

Six Missing Mariners
US Coast Guard and South Pacific partners rescued five mariners near Houk Island, Chuuk, March 12, 2021. Air Station Barbers Point C-130 Hercules aircrew remained on scene while the Panama-flagged vehicle transport vessel Hoegh Brasilia recovered all mariners. US Coast Guard photo courtesy of Air Station Barbers Point.

After four days, the US Coast Guard turned to the Navy. Shaffer’s Poseidon aircrew found the skiff roughly 40 nautical miles southeast of the Mortlock Islands, and FSS Micronesia diverted from its search pattern to retrieve the six mariners.

Shaffer’s plane dropped a Uni-Pac II search and rescue kit. It contained an eight-man inflatable life raft, survival supplies, and a location beacon.

The mariners came aboard FSS Micronesia around 11:30 p.m. Thursday, according to the US Coast Guard. Their skiff had drifted about 196 nautical miles off course. Micronesian authorities listed the mariners as in “stable” condition.

“The combined efforts displayed by our partners in the Federated States of Micronesia resulted in the success of the saving of the six mariners and bringing them back to safety,” said Cmdr. Greg Sickels, who helms US Coast Guard Forces Micronesia.

Six Missing Mariners
Several “Tridents” from US Navy Patrol Squadron (VP) 26 pose in front of a P-8A Poseidon with a South Korean soldier Oct. 24, 2021, during the Seoul International Aerospace and Defense Exhibition in Seoul, South Korea. VP-26 conducts maritime patrol and reconnaissance as well as theater outreach operations as part of a rotational deployment to the US 7th Fleet area of operations. US Navy photo by Lt. Alex Williams.

The US Navy’s P-8A was assigned to the “Tridents” of Patrol Squadron (VP) 26, which is based out of Naval Air Station Jacksonville in Florida but is forward-deployed to Kadena Air Base on the Japanese island of Okinawa.

Team Trident’s primary mission is anti-submarine warfare, but it is also trained and equipped to support attacks against enemy surface warships, deliver sea mines, collect maritime intelligence, recon coastal and overland targets, carry out electronic warfare, conduct battle damage assessments, detect drug traffickers, and conduct search and rescue.

Although the P-8A can carry an arsenal of cruise and anti-ship missiles, mines, depth charges, and torpedoes, it relies on its highly advanced search radars, camera system, and airborne sensors. VP-26 credited that snooping system and a lot of teamwork with saving the missing mariners.

“We once again successfully demonstrated the capability of the Maritime Patrol Reconnaissance Aircraft community to react quickly and effectively to operational requirements in the farthest corners of the globe,” said Shaffer, who also served as the Navy’s mission commander for the rescue. “None of this could have been possible without the tireless effort and support from the maintenance crew, aircrew, combat support crew, and partners on station.”

Read Next: Alaska SAR Alarm: Daring Coast Guard Rescue Saves 4 Mariners

Carl Prine
Carl Prine

Carl Prine is a former senior editor at Coffee or Die Magazine. He has worked at Navy Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.

More from Coffee or Die Magazine
fort bragg fort liberty
Fort Bragg Drops Confederate Namesake for Fort Liberty

Fort Bragg shed its Confederate namesake Friday to become Fort Liberty in a ceremony some veterans s...

father's day
Father’s Day Gift Guide: Don’t Disappoint Your Dad … Again

It’s less than two weeks until Father’s Day, and last-minute gifts for Dad are harder to come by tha...

space force
Air Force Picks Colorado For More Space Force Missions

The Air Force announced the permanent location for many more U.S. Space Force units Wednesday — and ...

Curtis LeMay
Curtis LeMay: The World War II General Who Firebombed Japan

Who exactly was Gen. Curtis LeMay? And how did he become the commander who razed more than 60 Japanese cities during World War II?

eric smith marine corps commandant nominee
Highly Decorated Marine Officer Nominated To Be Next Commandant

President Joe Biden has nominated a highly decorated Marine officer who has been involved in the transformation of the force to be the next Marine Corps commandant.

USS Arizona
Profile of a Ship: USS Arizona

When the USS Arizona sank, it took 1,177 crew members with it. Today it remains beneath the water as a memorial to all those who lost their lives at Pearl Harbor.

b1 bombers bosnia
US Bombers Fly Over Bosnia in Sign of Support Amid Continued Secessionist Threats

A pair of U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers flew low over Sarajevo and several other Bosnian cities...

  • About Us
  • Privacy Policy
  • Careers
Contact Us
  • Request a Correction
  • Write for Us
  • General Inquiries
© 2023 Coffee or Die Magazine. All Rights Reserved