CAMP BASTION, Afghanistan (AFNS) --
The HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter aircrew of the 26th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron and pararescuemen of the 651st Expeditionary Rescue Flight, deployed here, sat alert for the last time Dec. 31, 2013.
More affectionately known by their historic call sign, PEDRO, the 26th ERQS, and the Pave Hawks they fly, have held alert 24-hours a day, maintaining constant coverage for all of the Helmand River Valley since February 2009.
In conjunction with the transition of forces in Afghanistan, the squadron deactivated on New Year's Day 2014, transferring the remaining personnel recovery and casualty evacuation responsibilities within Regional Command Southwest to the Army's Dustoff HH-60 Blackhawks and the Royal Air Force's Medical Emergency Response Team flying CH-47 Chinooks. The last remaining Air Force rescue element in Afghanistan will be the 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.
Over the past 59 months, Camp Bastion's PEDROs tallied more than 2,400 lives saved and more than 3,300 assists, all while never having more than four Pave Hawks at Camp Bastion.
Maj. Adams Darling served as the final of many active-duty, National Guard or Reserve commanders of the 26th ERQS.
"The Airmen of the 26th ERQS along with Guardian Angel Teams have accomplished some remarkably brave missions in support of the joint and coalition force," Darling said. "I am humbled to have had the chance to command these warriors."
Col. Ed Lengel, the 651st Air Expeditionary Group commander, echoed Darling's sentiments.
"Recovery of wounded sometimes becomes an emotional subject; but there is nothing emotional about the capabilities these Airmen brought to the battlefield," Lengel said. "They flew into highly-perilous situations and were successful bringing the wounded to medical care."
The PEDROs, known as the fastest rescue in the Helmand River Valley, will be greatly missed as they depart Regional Command Southwest for the final time, Darling said. Regardless of their future location, the PEDROs, and all Air Force rescue, will continue to live by their motto, "These things we do ... that others may live."