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Marine Patrolmen save life, earn AF Commendation Medal

by Airman Jose Climaco
Thunderbolt staff writer
Photo by Airman Jose Climaco

Senior Airman Jeffrey Engel, and Staff Sgt. Brian Jones, 6th Security Forces Squadron boat patrolmen, scan the waters of Tampa Bay looking for potential hazards and threats.

The responsibility of patrolling MacDill's 7.2 miles of coastline is a job the Marine Patrol Crew takes very seriously. Not only do they enforce the 1,000 yard zone restriction on the bay, they quickly respond to unexpected emergencies.

Two Airmen with the 6th Security Forces Squadron MPC were awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal by Col. Don Halpin, 6th Air Mobility Wing vice commander, for their courageous life-saving rescue July 23.

Staff Sgt. Brian Jones, 6th SFS MPC chief, and Senior Airman Jeffrey Engel, 6th SFS MPC member, responded to an emergency involving a capsized boat which exploded and was completely engulfed in flames. They rescued an unconscious victim.

The Airmen were alerted by a fisherman in MacDill's marina, who told them of a cloud of black smoke and flames in Tampa Bay. They quickly advanced near the site of the accident about 1.5 miles off-shore despite the risk of the explosion and feeling the heat from the flames, said Airman Engel.

"There was fire everywhere, even in the water," added Airman Engel.

Upon arriving at the scene of the accident, the Airmen found a man in the water who had drifted away from the boat. The victim didn't respond to the Airmen's instructions or a rescue rope thrown to him, said Airman Engel.

Airman Engel said he immediately dove into the dark, choppy waters of the Bay. He said his training took over at that point. He retrieved the victim and got him to safety in the police boat, where he checked his vital signs. The battered boater regained consciousness shortly afterward.

"I never expected to jump in there like that. It happened so fast," said Airman Engel about being ready for the unexpected rescue.

The two Airmen transported the victim to MacDill's marina and released him to Tampa police and fire department crews who provided follow-up medical assistance. The victim didn't suffer any major injuries, said the Airman.

"We did what we were trained to do. (We were) running on adrenaline and we kept pretty cool," said Sergeant Jones.

Extracting the unconscious victim from the Bay as soon as possible was the top priority for the Airmen. They are trained to respond quickly to any emergencies in the Bay surrounding MacDill. A delay in the rescue effort could have cost the victim his life that night.

"He (the victim) was a near drowning victim, no doubt about it," said Airman Engel.

The Airmen credit their success to their intense training and team cohesion. They work together regularly, which enables them to work better as a team when they're faced with a challenge.

"We (MPC) are a tight group," said Airman Engel. "We have to take care of one another," added Sergeant Jones.

Sergeant Jones is a Reservist assigned to the 445th Security Forces Squadron, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.

The MPC encourages all people in the Bay to obey the 1,000-yard restriction zone to prevent any unnecessary mishaps and possible hefty fines. It applies to all people, military and civilians. It's like the red line on the flightline, you just don't cross it without permission from the authorities, said Sergeant Jones.

"We have to take our job seriously," he added.




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