Reserve Guardian Angels put Gators, gold medalist through special ops training

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Leslie Forshaw
  • 920th Rescue Wing Public Affairs
It's all about teamwork. To complete a rescue mission during combat in Afghanistan, or win an Olympic gold medal, it's all about working together.

This statement was never more apparent than during a Jan. 4 workout session between the University of Florida swim team, two Olympic medalists and Air Force Reserve Special Operations Airmen from the 920th Rescue Wing here, known as Guardian Angels.

Olympic gold medalists Ryan Lochte and Conor Dwyer joined their alma mater during a day in Air Force mock pararescue training.

"The training was brutal, but a lot of fun," Lochte said.

The morning started early for the swimmers, with a 7:30 a.m., arrival at the 308th Rescue Squadron, 920th RQW. Immediately, the athletes were put through circuit training where several pararescuemen and combat rescue officers were ready with loud voices and whistles to keep the men motivated and moving.

Former Olympian, Maj. Chad Senior, the 308th RQS director of operations and CRO, has a long-standing tie with the Florida swim team and was the catalyst behind the workout wager.

Old friends, Senior and Anthony Nesty, the Florida swim team assistant coach, came up with the idea of having the men's swim team train with the Guardian Angels pararescue style.

After the circuit training, the swimmers took to the streets. A mile run from the pararescueman squadron to the beach found the athletes doing flutter kicks, push-ups and low crawls in the cold salty surf of Cocoa Beach. The athletes trudged through 1.6 miles of soft sand to Patrick AFB's lap pool, where they endured the pararescue water confidence course.

After a successful pool session where they learned pararescue survival techniques like budding breathing, using one snorkel between two swimmers, they were off to the Riverside Dining Hall for lunch where they interacted and asked questions to the very pararescuemen and CROs that were, minutes ago, making life a bit harder than usual for them.

"This was a very good group of guys," said Chief Master Sgt. Doug Kestranek, chief enlisted pararescueman, 920th RQW. "Everyone was smiling and having a good time even though they were hurting."

Afterward the men had an educational afternoon touring the 308th RQS hearing stories and learning about the mission of combat search and rescue.

"We learned that you can never leave a man down, no matter what," Lochte said. "We have come together and there was no better place to learn it than from you guys (308th RQS)."

Florida head coach Greg Troy agreed, "It was nice to see my guys working together. It's all about team work and the guys here (pararescuemen and CROs) showed them the importance of that."

While the pararescue workout was agreeably difficult among the participants, it was an eye-opening day for the visitors. "They certainly aren't used to this, but it's good for them," Troy said. "They may be hurting Monday!"