Pangs of loss for Pedro felt in the Carolinas
After Hurricane Floyd in September 1999, the three MCAS Cherry Point-based HH-46E SAR birds of Marine Transport Squadron One (VMR-1), popularly known as “Pedro” rescued 399 people directly threatened by the floods that followed and provided logistical support with emergency delivery of water and food supplies to volunteer workers and isolated communities throughout Eastern North Carolina.
But, due to budget cuts, the last two USMC SAR units– the four HH-1N Iroquois helicopters at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, and Pedro– were axed at the end of last year without replacement.
While VMR-1 had made headlines during Floyd, the Yuma-based HH-1s were celebrated when they saved 28 Boy Scouts lost near the Colorado River in 2014.
Now, with Hurricane Matthew, the absence of the three old Phrogs of Pedro were felt in their community.
“We lost the most valuable resource you could ask for in times like we’re going through right now,” said Stanley Kite, emergency management director for Craven County.
“Those guys were trained professionals to do search and rescue. They were trained professionals to do extraction from trees and water. They were invaluable,” said Kite. “I think it also relates to the Marine aviator training. In weather situations where other aircraft wouldn’t attempt it, the Marine aviator crew would go right on. Sometimes it wasn’t inclement weather. It was just the threat of inclement weather and we couldn’t get anybody else, but they would go.”