Jacksonville, Florida - Vice President Mike Pence praised first responders and service members during a visit to Naval Air Station Jacksonville (NAS Jax), May 20.
During the visit, the vice president toured Unmanned Aerial Patrol Squadron 19’s Mission Control Center, where he flew the “Triton” MQ-4C simulator, and a Patrol Squadron 45 P-8A “Poseidon” aircraft.
Pence also personally thanked first responders who assisted when the Miami Air charter Boeing 737 skidded off the NAS Jax runway into the St. Johns River May 3. The aircraft was on a routine flight late that evening from Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
“The vice president was very personable, humble and appreciative,” said NAS Jax Firefighter/Emergency Medical Technician Russell Russ, who was one of the first responders to jump into the river to rescue passengers. “It was an honor to be recognized for what we do.”
“I was so honored to meet Vice President Pence and am grateful he took the time to personally meet with us,” said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Anthony Anello of Naval Hospital Jacksonville who assisted 40 passengers’ transportation to the hospital with resources and logistics.
The vice president also took the stage during an all-hands call to address Sailors, civilian employees and family members.
“It’s amazing to think that, for nearly 80 years, Naval Air Station Jacksonville has stood watch over our nation’s coastline and seas,” Pence said. “This is the third largest naval base in the country, and it’s here that 20,000 patriotic Americans work tirelessly every day to deliver ‘effective and efficient readiness from the shore.’”
Pence highlighted the partnership between the Navy and Customs Border Patrol working together to defend America, and thanked Patrol Squadron’s 16 and 26 for strengthening the country’s maritime supremacy during their recent deployments.
He also recognized first responders of the First Coast Navy Fire and Emergency Services, Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department, Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, NAS Jax Security Department, NAS Jax Air Operations, Naval Hospital Jacksonville and the Coast Guard.
“I understand that just a little over two weeks ago, a passenger aircraft was landing during a thunderstorm when it crashed through a wall and slid into St. John’s River,” Pence said. “What happened next could’ve been a terrible tragedy, but thanks to professionalism and courage of the men and women of Naval Air Station Jacksonville, what followed were acts of heroism. After receiving the initial call for help, firefighters rushed to the scene, jumping into the water, and sped the passengers to safety. All told, nearly 80 members of the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department and Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office rescued 143 people. I know many of those heroes are here today. So please stand up and accept the thanks of a grateful nation.”
Pence reinforced the Trump administration’s support to the military by discussing the proposed 2019-2020 budget with military pay increases and building a 350-ship Navy.
“You can know with confidence that, under President Trump’s leadership, we will always give our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guard the resources and the support you need to accomplish your mission and come home safe,” said Pence.