Search and rescue
June 16, 2004
U.S. Sens. Trent Lott and Thad Cochran have gotten the Senate to agree to an amendment with serious local implications. The amendment to the pending defense authorization bill could be helpful in keeping search and rescue helicopter units on station at Naval Air Station Meridian.
Reportedly, two such helicopters are always on duty at NAS Meridian to assist in case of a training accident or other emergencies. Many in the Navy believe that the search and rescue choppers are an absolutely essential element of the Navy's flight training program. And, yet, somehow, some at the Pentagon would transfer the units from NAS Meridian and other installations under the guise of saving a few bucks.
The Lott-Cochran amendment seeks to ensure that the secretary of Defense may not reduce or eliminate search and rescue capabilities at any military installation in the United States unless the secretary first certifies to the Committees on Armed Services of the Senate and the House of Representatives that equivalent search and rescue capabilities will be provided, without interruption …
Under terms of the amendment, the Department of Defense, either directly or through a Department of Defense contract with an emergency medical service provider or other private entity, could provide such capabilities.
Experts in this specialized field tell us that military search and rescue helicopters are so valuable because they can get to a crash scene quickly and, possibly, save a pilot's life. They are also employed sometimes in civilian emergencies. Having them here offers a measure of reassurance.
When the defense authorization bills gets to a conference of both houses, we encourage lawmakers to retain the Lott-Cochran amendment.