Americans participate in Keen Sword 03 exercise

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U.S. Air Force, Japanese air self-defense force and maritime defense force helicopters rescued several downed airmen Nov. 14 as part of joint exercise Keen Sword 03. The 33rd Rescue Squadron at Kadena Air Base, Japan, deployed two HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters along with 39 airmen to participate in the biannual exercise.

The search-and-rescue scenario called for four pararescue specialists to be dropped in 68-degree water, remain afloat for more than 30 minutes, then signal helicopters from the Japanese defense forces to rescue them.

"They do things a little different than us such as using different equipment or dissimilar procedures, that's when communication becomes crucial," said Tech. Sgt. John Davis, pararescue noncommissioned officer in charge. "These exercises are the key to improving joint procedures, especially when training in an international environment."

Water temperature, communication, wind, and weather are regular limiting factors considered when attempting this type of rescue.

According to Capt. Doug Blacklegde, detachment commander, 33rd RQS, the training is paying big dividends.

"Today's mission went smoother than previous days," Blackledge said. "Our communication was much better which added to the team's cohesion and enhanced the execution of the mission."

The ultimate goal of Keen Sword is to develop and improve techniques that enhance air operations to provide better defense of Japan.

"Exercising our combined skills here gives us the chance to work on our relationships both in the air and on the ground," Blackledge said.

Keen Sword is a regularly scheduled joint/combined exercise designed to train and evaluate wartime functions and bilateral cooperation procedures.