It was just another day with Operation Martillo for the frigate Rentz on Jan. 14, when a patrol for drug-smuggling boats turned into a rescue mission to save three trapped sea turtles.
Pilot Lt. j.g. Chris Gokey and co-pilot Chief Warrant Officer 3 Rob Antonucci were up in an SH-60B anti-submarine patrol helicopter about 80 nautical miles off the coast of Guatemala when they spotted an island of floating garbage alongside a group of fishing buoys, according to a Navy release.
It seemed that three unusual objects were connected to the buoy line, so they called for the ship to check it out.
Rentz arrived on scene and launched a rigid-hull inflatable boat to survey the site. Once there, crew members found three deep ocean sea turtles tangled up with the buoys.
“I knew they were still alive once I saw their little fins moving in the water,” Lt. j.g. Michelle Webster, the RHIB’s small boat officer, said in the release.
The crew radioed back to the ship, and commanding officer Cmdr. Lance Lantier granted them permission to free the turtles.
“In today’s environment, it is expected that the United States Navy act as a good steward of the fragile ecosystems in which we operate,” Lantier said. “Opportunities to save and help our oceanic friends are some of the easier decisions I can make as a commander onboard a U.S. Navy warship.”
Rentz left San Diego in July in support of Operation Martillo, a joint anti-drug trafficking mission coordinated by U.S. Southern Command.
The frigate’s deployment has been marked by tens of millions of dollars in cocaine seizures, with the help of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Warfare Squadron Light 49, Detachment 5, and an embarked Coast Guard law enforcement detachment team.