by Senior Airman Gregory Nash
U.S. Air Force 23rd Wing Public Affairs
April 15, 2019
When lives are on the line, there is no margin for error ... and for a group of Air Force Combat Search and Rescue personnel, their razor thin life-saving operations were put to the test as they mobilized to Avon Park Air Force Range, Florida.
During their pre-deployment ‘spin-up’ training, Moody’s 347th Rescue Group tested and maximized their CSAR and personnel recovery capabilities. Under normal circumstances, the HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter crews and maintainers deploy from Moody and normally integrate with a Guardian Angel team from a different base.
This time, Moody’s 38th and 41st RQS’s will deploy together and utilized this exercise to improve their mission readiness and unit cohesion before their departure.
“The purpose of the combined 41st Rescue Squadron, 41st Helicopter Maintenance Unit, and 38th Rescue Squadron ‘spin-up’ training is to prepare the units for the types of operations they will encounter while deployed,” said Lt. Col. Kevin Geoffroy, 41st RQS deployed detachment commander. “This spin-up is particularly special because the 41st and 38th Rescue Squadrons are planning to deploy together to the same location for the first time in a very long time. They have to be ready to execute their mission on their first day in theater and remain on alert until they come home.”
More than 100 rescue operators, maintainers, and support Airmen simultaneously worked together to identify and overcome challenges to maximize mission success while minimizing and mitigating risk. Utilizing Moody’s Avon Park range complex, they familiarized themselves with drop zones, weapons employment ranges, and military operations in urban terrain training villages.
“The ‘spin-up’ exercise is the perfect opportunity for the (347th Rescue Group) to train at our peak to perfect our mission,” said Capt. Jesse Reynolds, 41st RQS HH-60 pilot. “The Department of Defense views (Combat Search and Rescue) and personnel recovery as a critical mission and the (AF CSAR) solely provides this day-in and day-out. Every day, we wake up and try to perfect our mission because downrange, you can’t try to perfect it, you have to just do it.”
Understanding that synchronizing everyone’s actions takes time and practice; the 347th RQG implemented combined leadership roles and integrated the two squadrons at all levels of decision-making and employment. This was designed to build trust and understand each other’s strengths, requirements, risk factors, and limitations to help streamline the mission approval process and ultimately ensure mission success as quickly and efficiently possible.
This advanced training concept enhanced the squadron’s dual lethality to bring the readiness to win tomorrow’s fight faster and contribute in a joint, contested environment.
“We can rehearse a scenario 99 times, but it comes down to being ready for that one time in a real-world event,” said Reynolds. “We owe it to the people, whatever service they’re a part of or whatever the situation it is, to (perform) at our peak. During the spin up, it’s not life or death, but downrange, it will be. We owe it to (the people we save) to be constant and always working to improve so that when we’re needed, we’re ready to perform the mission and that (exemplifies) our motto – ‘These things we do, that others may live.’
Whether it was relaying information in the tactical operations center, combining processes on the flightine, or flying as hard crews with the same rescue operators on every mission, the continuity of the two units makes it possible to reach their mission pinnacle.
For the 38th RQS’s Capt. Ryan Kelly, deployed director of operations, the opportunity to execute in inter-squadron operations is invaluable for mission readiness.
“The 347th Rescue Group executes personnel recovery operations and teamwork is key,” said Kelly. “Each part of the group is critical for the broad spectrum of missions encountered in operations. When we say the word “joint”, we typically refer to cross-service operations. Intra-group training like this is unique in terms of multiple units working together to achieve more than what they could standing alone.
“Only by working together can we truly achieve (Combatant Commander’s) intent to hold PR alert standards,” Kelly added. “What we, as a group, uniquely bring to the fight is the ability to rescue isolated personnel, and personnel in danger, anytime, anyplace, and in a timely manner, as long as it meets a stated level of risk by commanders.”
Throughout the exercise, 347th RQG leadership constantly echoed the message that performing routine joint training events with the group’s weapons systems helps ensure personnel are ready for their most important mission – saving lives.
In both dusk and dawn, rescue operators scrambled to the flightline for recovery missions and to conclude the event, the entire group participated in a mass casualty evacuation scenario. For Kelly, rehearsing these events was paramount to achieving the ‘spin-ups’ goal.
“Plain and simple the training was rewarding,” said Kelly. “We don’t train this way enough. Personal relationships with those you work with is important. As a squadron, we (continuously) train and work together, almost every day. (Group training) creates a strong bond of trust that makes operations more efficient, lethal to the enemy, and more successful to the ultimate goal.
“We will use this experience in two ways to be better equipped for tomorrow’s fight,” Kelly added. “First, we’ll take these relationships downrange to be more successful, and two, we’ll be more vigilant in executing these inter-squadron operations more often in the future.”