Deputies return home after 3,000-mile row across the Atlantic Ocean

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AZTEC, N.M. – A team of three New Mexico first responders accomplished something extraordinary. They took a trip across the Atlantic Ocean in a rowboat, all to raise awareness for the mental well-being of first responders.

San Juan County Sheriff’s Office Captain Mark Pfetzer, Lieutenant Jarrod Slindee and retired Sergeant Mike Hogue made it back to the desert with some tales from the high seas.

“At one time we saw a couple of whales, they had gotten so close to the boat that we had to take the rowers out of the water to keep from hitting them,” Slindee said. 

“I have heard that you saw birds when you got close to land, that’s not true they are in the middle of the ocean as far away as you can be from land,” Pfetser added.

51 days rowing an unpowered water vessel from Africa to the Caribbean made them often reflect on what brought them there.

“Our cause, the first responder mental wellness, what we were doing, the thought of people that struggle, they’re going through hard times, you know but have to persevere,” Pfetzer said.

“If you work through it with the right team, the right resources you can get to the other side there is land on the other side there is hope but we just need our first responders to know that,” Slindee said.

With their feet back on solid ground, they are not celebrating their accomplishment alone. San Juan County held a celebration on Thursday with dozens of people from the county.

“Mike, Jarrod and I were out there rowing, but we could not have done this without the support of our community,” Pfetzer said.

The 3,000-mile row is part of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, also known as the World’s Toughest Row.