The Coast Guard Jayhawk helicopter banked hard, flying around the last reported location of the distressed swimmer. The eyes of the helicopter crew were glued to the water, searching for any sign of splashing or movement. The crew's newest member, Isaac Simmons started pointing and yelling over the headset.
"I see him! I see him," shouted Simmons as he spotted the distressed swimmer.
"That's not what we say, what do we say Isaac?" asked Petty Officer 2nd Class Roderick Ansley, the crew's rescue swimmer.
"Oh yeah, mark, mark, mark," exclaimed Simmons.
Ansley was cutting Simmons a little slack as Isaac Simmons is only 7-years-old.
Over the weekend Coast Guard Base Elizabeth City partnered with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to welcome the newest Coast Guard rescue member, Isaac Simmons of Archdale, North Carolina. Isaac lives with a rare heart condition called Hypo-Plastic Right Heart, but that didn't slow him down as he lived out his dream of being part of a Coast Guard rescue helicopter crew.
"Isaac has been telling us for several years that he wants to be a rescue pilot. It's been amazing," said Elizabeth Simmons, Isaac's mother. "We thought [the Coast Guard] was just going to show him around, we didn't know he would be getting into a plane!"
Isaac's adventure began Saturday at the air station when he met with Coast Guard helicopter pilots and crew in preparation for his flight. The rescue swimmers presented Isaac with a personalized, miniature flight suit and the safety gear he needed.
The flight with Isaac was planned as a routine patrol down North Carolina's Outer Banks. His flight took him over waving Coast Guard Facebook and Twitter fans who followed Isaac's adventure throughout the day. During the flight, a sudden distress call came in reporting a troubled swimmer, played by the base's chaplain unbeknownst to Isaac, needed an immediate rescue. The helicopter pilots diverted course to assist. Arriving on scene, Isaac spotted the chaplain and helped in deploying the crew's rescue swimmer. Isaac watched firsthand the coordination and teamwork needed to hoist someone aboard the helicopter. He then helped provide first-aid before landing at a local hospital, Isaac himself carefully walked the rescued chaplain down the path, guiding him to safety.
Upon his return to the air station, Isaac was greeted by a cheering crowd and the air station's commanding officer who welcomed him back and presented him with awards and a set of naval aviator wings.
On day two of his adventure, Isaac toured the Aviation Technical Training Center where he learned what it takes to become an aviation crewmember. He then experienced being rescued by Coast Guard rescue swimmers, learned how the electronics worked within the helicopter with Coast Guard aircraft electricians and got into the nitty-gritty with Coast Guard aircraft mechanics. At the end of the day, Isaac was presented with three honorary degrees in the aviation fields by the school's commanding officer.
"All this was amazing. The Coast Guard here went above and beyond everything that we thought could happen," said Ryan Simmons, Isaac's father. "Everybody was wonderful, and this has just been a great experience and the time of his life."