>Saving lives on a cutter

>My name is Robert Luiz, I am an Electricians Mate Third Class (EM3) onboard Munro. I am 21-years old from Lake Forrest Calif. I’ve been in the Coast Guard for a little over two years and I’ve been on the Munro for a little over a year.

I grew up near the beach so I’ve been in the water all my life, swimming, surfing and I’ve done just about any water sport you can imagine.

Originally I wanted to be an Aviation Survival Technician, (AST) but instead chose to go EM to learn a trade that would be useful outside the Coast Guard.

When I came to the Munro I found out that they needed more rescue swimmers, which was something I was still interested in doing. I talked to BM1 Smith about doing it and he enthusiastically spoke to me about getting me qualified and I decided to take the cutter rescue swimmer physical fitness test. I had to swim five hundred yards in 12 minutes, do 29 push-ups and 38 sit ups.

I also had to train on recovering personnel in the water and how to put them in a stokes litter. I learned basic hand signals, like tapping my head and waving my arms to convey messages to the cutter. The training also covered how to calm people down and how to drag a person through the water depending on the type of injury they might have.

Yesterday’s man overboard drill went pretty well. The time was good, but things were still a bit rusty. Yesterday was my first time going over the side from the forecastle using the J-Bar davit, and I think it was the first time for a lot of people on the forecastle as well. Despite our collective inexperience, I think we did pretty well.

After I was lowered over the side I hit the water and gave the okay sign. I detached myself from the harness and swam out to Oscar, the man overboard dummy. It’s roughly the size and weight of a 5’10” man and dressed in a mustang suit to help him float. It’s definitely a lot better than using one of our shipmates! I went through the training in my head, assessing injuries, treating what I could in the water and providing reassurance to prevent panic.

One of the worst things that can happen while rescuing a person in the water is that they panic. When someone is panicking, they can latch on and pull you under or flail about and injure themselves or you while you’re attempting rescue.

Oscar wasn’t worried about anything though. He’s an old pro when it comes to man overboard drills. I brought Oscar back toward the forecastle and put him into the harness and had the people on the forecastle pull him up out of the water and then hopped into it when they lowered it for me. As I was coming up, the line tenders let out a little too much slack before I was on deck and I was lowered below the deck line as the J-Bar davit swung inboard. I hit the hull of the ship, but not too hard. Again, I think we just need some more practice using the J-Bar davit.

After I got back on deck I was told that there was a blue fin shark in the water with me and I laughed because I thought they were joking. Later I found out they weren’t joking, but I thought it was still kind of funny. (CO Comment: It was about 2 feet long and the GM1 with the M-16 was ready). Growing up on the California coast got me used to all kinds of marine wildlife and it hadn’t come near me while I was in the water so I wasn’t worried about it.

I think the success of the drill was largely due to the professionalism, humility and dedication of Oscar. Oscar is a good guy, he doesn’t get off the boat much, but he likes to party. He gets beat up a lot but he’s a good sport. He never complains about how often he gets tossed overboard and he always stays calm under pressure.

(Oscar is a rescue dummy used by the Coast Guard in a search and rescue training exercise. Oscar also refers to the oscar flag, which is raised when a person is reported overboard or a person is located in the water.)