INDIAN OCEAN - The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) and the guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens (CG 63) came to the aid and support of an Indonesian-flagged fishing vessel in distress, July 8 while en route to Australia to participate in exercise Talisman Sabre 2011.
“This is an example of what the United States Navy does best,” said George Washington’s Commanding Officer, Capt. David A. Lausman. “When a fellow mariner is in need of help, it is our responsibility to come to their aid. That’s what we did today and I’m very proud of the way our crew responded to this situation.”
While conducting a replenishment-at-sea, helicopter pilots in the air and assigned to George Washington first noticed the small fishing vessel KM Jimmy Wijaya 9. The boat appeared to be dead in the water with the crew topside, wearing lifejackets and waving to the helicopters for help. Two crewmembers from the distressed vessel jumped into the water and were rescued by search and rescue swimmers from one of the helicopters.
“No one on the boat was injured but they’ve been out here for a while and are pretty thirsty,” said George Washington’s navigator, Cmdr. Wes McCall.
The crew of the fishing vessel reported that they had been adrift for eight days without food and water.
George Washington dispatched two rigid hull inflatable boats (RHIB) to the fishing vessel and ultimately transported 25 people to Cowpens. Another six crewmembers, including the ship’s master stayed behind. For those who remained on the stranded boat, George Washington provided several cases of fresh water and food.
“It’s a great feeling to know that we were able to go out here and help out,” said Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class William Delancey. “I was pretty excited actually because it’s a real situation that we train for. We get to drive these RHIBs a lot but to finally put our training into action and take care of a real life situation feels really good.”
The ship’s master and crew who chose to remain aboard KM Jimmy Wijaya 9 received notice that their company was sending a vessel to assist them when USS Cowpens departed. The 25 passengers that chose to embark Cowpens were later transferred to an Indonesian Navy ship.