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68th Rescue Flight transitions to 68th Rescue Squadron

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Matthew McGuinness, 68th Rescue Squadron commander, receives the guidon from Col. John Lussier, 563rd Rescue Group commander, during a change of command ceremony at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., June 1st, 2017. Capt. Michael Ellingsen, then-68th Rescue Flight commander, relinquished command to McGuinness at the ceremony and the 68th RQF transitioned to the 68th RQS. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nathan H. Barbour)

Lt. Col. Matthew McGuinness, the 68th Rescue Squadron commander, receives the guidon from Col. John Lussier, the 563rd Rescue Group commander, during a change of command ceremony at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., June 1st, 2017. Capt. Michael Ellingsen, previously the 68th Rescue Flight commander, relinquished command to McGuinness at the ceremony and the 68th RQF transitioned to the 68th RQS. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Nathan H. Barbour)

A U.S. Air Force pararescueman fires an M249 automatic rifle during the Guardian Angel Mission Qualification Training course at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., May 18, 2017. The MQT is a 90 day course that takes pararescuemen who have completed Air Education and Training Command schooling and helps them achieve their 5-level qualification. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nathan H. Barbour)

A pararescueman fires an M249 automatic rifle during the Guardian Angel Mission Qualification Training course at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., May 18, 2017. The MQT is a 90-day course that takes pararescuemen who have completed Air Education and Training Command schooling and helps them achieve their 5-level qualification. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Nathan H. Barbour)

U.S. Air Force pararescuemen fire M9 pistols at targets during the Guardian Angel Mission Qualification Training course at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., May 17, 2017. The MQT is a 90 day course that takes pararescuemen who have completed Air Education and Training Command schooling and helps them achieve their 5-level qualification. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nathan H. Barbour)

Pararescuemen fire M9 pistols at targets during the Guardian Angel Mission Qualification Training course at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., May 17, 2017. The MQT is a 90-day course that takes pararescuemen who have completed Air Education and Training Command schooling and helps them achieve their 5-level qualification. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Nathan H. Barbour)

DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. (AFNS) -- As one of the only human based weapon systems in the Air Force, Guardian Angel must have highly trained personnel dedicated to the Air Force core function of personnel recovery. Guardian Angel is comprised of combat rescue officers, pararescuemen, and survival, evasion, resistance, and escape specialists.

The 68th Rescue Flight, also known as the Guardian Angel Formal Training Unit, was stood up in 2014 at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

“The mission of the 68th RQF and soon to be 68th Rescue Squadron is to provide standardized and efficient upgrade training for the entire Guardian Angel weapon system in order to support the Combatant Commanders Personnel Recovery requirements,” said Capt. Michael Ellingsen, the 68th RQF commander.

Ellingsen relinquished command at a change of command ceremony and the 68th RQF transitioned to the 68th RQS on June 1, 2017.

“We only had 25 positions assigned when we were initially stood up by (combatant commander),” Ellingsen said. “We’re sitting at about 44 personnel right now. That was enough to convert us to a full-fledged rescue squadron from a numbered flight.”

With the growth of the squadron there is an increase in positions, the commander’s billet is now an O-5 and the superintendent is an established E-9.

“Now that the 68th is converting to a full-fledged rescue squadron it’s standardizing what Guardian Angel squadrons look like not only across the 23rd Wing, but the entire Air Force as well,” Ellingsen said. “It’s going to be pretty awesome to see where this place is going to be in the next three, five, ten years from now.”

The 68th RQS focuses on training in three major courses: a pararescue team leader course, a mission qualification training course, and a U.S. Special Operations Command approved military freefall jumpmaster course.

This transition also allows for future growth in the form of new courses, new training and new upgrade opportunities for multitudes of Battlefield Airmen.

“Going back to General Goldfein’s priorities, squadrons are the fundamental building blocks of the Air Force,” Ellingsen said. “That’s where people live, that’s where people reside, and that’s where families and Airmen flourish.”

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