Airmen train on combat search, rescue missions

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Jessica Green
  • 129th Rescue Wing Public Affairs
Airmen participating in Exercise Angel Thunder 2010 here performed a combat search and rescue mission at the Barry M. Goldwater Range April 19 more than 140 miles northwest of Tucson, Ariz.

Two HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopters carrying teams of pararescuemen accompanied by multiple A-10 Thunderbolt IIs and Army AH-64 Apache attack helicopters flew to rescue 10 Airmen acting as survivors in the Sonoran Desert.

The teams are expected to complete entire rescue operation in one hour; from the time the emergency is called in to the time the patients return to base or a medical treatment facility.

Although the exercise has many scenarios, the participants are still expected to meet real-world goals.

A CSAR mission comprises many layers of capabilities working together to successfully rescue the isolated members, said a survival specialist from the 336th Training Group at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash. The names of survival, evasion, rescue and escape specialists are withheld for security reasons.

"The first layer was just aircraft coming into the area, basically making sure that there were no enemy threats on the ground that could do any damage to the recovery vehicle that was coming in," the SERE specialist said. "That's exactly what we want to see out there, that everyone is safe and that nothing happens to the survivors on the ground."

After authenticating the number of survivors and the location for where the rescue was going to take place, the SERE specialist got word through his radio that the area was clear and the rescue helicopters were coming in.

Two pararescue teams were dropped into the area where they assessed the patients on the ground, prepared them for travel and called back to the HH-60Gs for pick up.

The A-10s provided cover during the rescue as well, firing into desert targets meant to simulate tanks south of the recovery site.

"That was like the best-case scenario, as far as the number of aircraft involved," the SERE specialist said. "It can be done with a lot less; however, if there was a need for more, they could probably add a couple more birds. We have so much air superiority right now."

With such a high number of patients, it's common for independent duty medical technicians to fly along on similar missions, said Tech. Sgt. Wayne Johnson, also from the 336th TRG.

"The (pararescuemen) play a really big part in personnel recovery," Sergeant Johnson said. "They're the first responders. They'll come in under fire to collect patients, give initial evaluations, stabilize the patient and bring them back to infinitive care where an (independent duty medical technician) will then take over."

Having a SERE specialist play the role of a survivor helps everyone involved in the recovery process understand what was done correctly or what could've been done better during the mission, the SERE participant said.

"One of our tasks, as far as SERE, is to work hand-in-hand with personnel recovery making sure that survivors are personally taken into account versus not thinking about them as survivors," he said. "We make sure the (pararescuemen) know exactly what to do, as far as authentication, and what the survivor(s) may be expected to do when they are on the ground."

SERE specialists from Fairchild AFB teach all aircrew that could be in harm's way the fundamentals of survival, evasion, resistance and escape. They are taught exactly what to do if they find themselves isolated on the ground.

"The simplest things are how to find shelter, food and procure water," the SERE specialist said. "The evasion side of training includes teaching ways of survival so they can't be caught."