U.S. Coast Guard Air Facility Charleston set to relocate

CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - A spokesperson for the U.S. Coast Guard confirmed Air Facility Charleston will close November 30, 2014.

The facility, based at the Charleston Executive Airport on Johns Island, is home to one search and rescue helicopter, and five Coast Guard personnel.

Coast Guard officials say efficiency is the biggest reason for the closure.  Spokesperson Chad Saylor said service members utilize upgraded response boats, that are now faster, and sport much-improved technology.

Saylor said U.S. Coast Guard response time has seen a 50% increase.

Trey Brown, a Charleston boater, who frequents the water up to three times a week, is still confident in the Coast Guard's ability to respond quickly.

"From an in shore perspective, I see them doing drills a good bit, but I don't see them using the helicopter that much," he said.

"It's probably faster for them to use a boat. It's probably safer and easier as well."

To date, the standard response time for a U.S. Coast Guard SAR helicopter requires launch within 30 minutes of receiving the call, and arrival on scene within 90 minutes.

U.S. Coast Guard spokesperson Chad Saylor, said even with Charleston facility relocation, the standard response time will not be compromised.

Meanwhile, local and state leaders aren't as convinced.

In a statement from U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, he said, "We're destroying the finest military in the world."

"It will be slashed in half by the end of the decade."

Charleston Mayor Joe Riley took his appeal to the Oval Office, with a letter to President Obama.

"In the case of an emergency, valuable time will be lost as the unit mobilizes its assets to the search and rescue mission in the local area," said Riley in the letter.

"With the combination of expanding populations and tourism, the South Carolina Coast is exposed to deaths and injuries because of untimely response."

According to U.S. Coast Guard officials, a relocation site has not been determined.

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