EAST CHINA SEA (April 29, 2011) Mineman 3rd Class Joshua Sinsheimer, a search and rescue diver aboard USS Avenger (MCM 1), swims to a dummy during a training drill. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brian A. Stone)

EAST CHINA SEA — Mine countermeasure ship USS Avenger's (MCM 1) search and rescue (SAR) team completed a series of training drills in the East China Sea April 29.

The drills are designed to test the proficiency of shipboard SAR swimmers, in addition to building seamanship skills with the rigid-hull inflatable boat (RHIB) crew.

The evolution started out by throwing a dummy over the side of the ship, simulating a man overboard drill. The ship called away man overboard and launched a RHIB to recover the dummy.

"The interesting thing about any search and rescue operation is that it involves personnel from all departments of the ship," said Ensign Garth Thomas, the RHIB's boat officer for the evolution. "Operations personnel chart the possible locations of the person we're searching for, while Deck Department Sailors move personnel and equipment into the water to recover them. It certainly is more than a simple seamanship evolution."

Mineman 3rd Class Joshua Sinsheimer was the first SAR swimmer to enter the sea from the RHIB during the drill. He quickly recovered the dummy and returned it to the RHIB. Sinsheimer then swam back out to sea and made a signal for the second part of the evolution to begin.

"That's when I became the SAR swimmer, and Sinsheimer was the person needing to be rescued," said Quartermaster Seaman Joshua Kissel, another SAR swimmer aboard Avenger. "I assessed the situation and dove in. Once I got to Sinsheimer, I inspected him for any medical issues and signaled the RHIB to come alongside."

By having to take a real, live person back through open seas, Kissel said the evolution effectively simulated real-life SAR operations. Kissel added that the way a person floats, swims and struggles in the water changes everything.

"It went well. It's always good to do these training evolutions," said Kissel. "It keeps us focused."

After Sinsheimer and Kissel were safely aboard the RHIB, the boat returned to Avenger. The SAR team completed the evolution with a quick debrief from the boat officer.

"I felt really confident about today's drill," Thomas said. "I think, if we ever have to save someone's life out in the high seas, they'll be safe with USS Avenger on patrol."

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