Everyday Heroes

They Saw An SOS In The Sand: Two Pittsburgh Airmen Help Spot and Rescue Stranded Crew

When you see this video, you'll think it's from a movie. But it's for real!



Here's a story that sounds like something out of a movie. People stranded on an uninhabited desert island, with no way to get help except digging a large "SOS" message in the sand and hoping for the best. But in this case it's true story! And two men from 171st Air Refueling Wing in Pittsburgh are being hailed as heroes after helping in the rescue.



Three sailors set out on a 23-foot boat a week ago to make a 26-mile journey between two islands in Micronesia, a region of small islands in the western Pacific Ocean, 500 miles south of Guam, with Australia to the south and the Hawaiian islands to the north west.


They went off course, ran out of fuel, and landed on tiny Pikelot Island. When they didn't show up at their destination, a search team went out from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam.


Some islands in Micronesia are inhabited, but many are not.Saeed Ullah


Lucky for the stranded men, Pennsylvania Air National Guardsmen Tech. Sgt. Rodney Joseph and Senior Airman Jeremy Williams, based out of Pittsburgh's 171st were on the case, according to KDKA-TV.


After searching for three hours, Joseph and Williams along with three Air National Guardsmen from Hawaii, spotted the three Micronesian men thanks to the SOS sign in the sand, according to a posting on the base's Facebook page.



"We were toward the end of our search pattern," the KC-135 pilot, Lt. Col. Jason Palmeira-Yen, said in the post. "We turned to avoid some rain showers and that's when we looked down and saw an island, so we decide to check it out and that's when we saw SOS and a boat right next to it on the beach. From there we called in the Australian Navy because they had two helicopters nearby that could assist and land on the island."



A helicopter from the HMAS Canberra dropped off food and water for the stranded men while a U.S. Coast Guard C-130 from Hawaii dropped a radio so the stranded men could communicate with a Micronesian patrol vessel headed to rescue them.


An Australian Army ARH Tiger helicopter lands on Pikelot Island. You can see the stranded sailors' SOS message on the beach.Australia Department of Defence


Capt. Terry Morrison, commander of the Canberra, praised his crew and the international effort that saved lives. "I am proud of the response and professionalism of all on board as we fulfill our obligation to contribute to the safety of life at sea wherever we are in the world," he said.


Congratulations to the rescued men, and the men who rescued them! This is definitely what being a hero is all about.

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