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Meet the U.S. Coast Guard flight crew out of Air Station Atlantic City saving lives at the shore

Meet the U.S. Coast Guard flight crew saving lives at the Jersey Shore
Meet the U.S. Coast Guard flight crew saving lives at the Jersey Shore 02:36

ATLANTIC CITY, NJ (CBS) — Shore towns around the region will be unlocking the ocean this weekend as people return to the beach and get ready to head out on the water. Keeping an eye on those waterways are the United States Coast Guard.

They are your eyes in the sky as you relax on the sand and surf this summer season. If you ever get into trouble, this orange bird is what you want to see.


"We'll fly as far and as fast to get to that person in the water or a vessel in distress and we'll help in any way that we can," Pilot Lt. Mico Manalang said.

Before they take flight, teams meet inside the hangar of Air Station Atlantic City in Egg Harbor Township and they are always prepared for the next rescue alarm to sound.

"It's exhilarating, it's a huge adrenaline rush," said Nikki Gildenston.

Gildenston is a flight technician making sure the dolphin helicopters are safe both on the ground and flying with the team in the air. Growing up in Absecon, Gildenston was inspired to serve at a very young age.

"I would go out my backyard and see these orange helicopters flying overhead and there was always something like 'one day I'm going to do that,'' Gildenston said. "It feels so good doing something knowing you're out there keeping people safe. They don't let go of you. The mom would not stop hugging me just because she knew she was now safe. Her kids were safe. Her family was safe."

Teams at Air Station Atlantic City helped keep waterways safe from Maryland to Connecticut. But the responsibility goes beyond search and rescue. They also take flight for routine patrol training, recruiting and presidential detail.

Lieutenant Gillian Gerton is a pilot and a role model as a woman in the male-dominated field.

"One of my friends has a young daughter and every time a Coast Guard helicopter flies by, she looks up with her and says, 'Look that might be Gillian,'' she said. "So it's pretty cool to see like how what I'm doing can impact the lives of others."

As summer approaches, these teams are prepared for bigger crowds and more action down the Jersey shore.

"One thing we do see a lot here is boats getting stuck in the marsh, so there's no other assets that can get out there due to shallow water. So they'll call us," said rescue swimmer Ben Bohan.

As you head out on the water this season, remember this, it is very hard for even the most trained eye to find a person in the water.

"It's kind of like looking for a coconut. If it's dark, it's even harder to find," Gerton said. "You know, that's why we always encourage people to go out on the water with life jackets. It's incredibly difficult. And anytime we do find someone, we are incredibly thankful that we're able to find that person, hopefully, rescue them and return them to their families."

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