Joint Warrior: It's what we train for

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Erin O'Shea
  • 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
They train for air-to-air combat missions, are rapidly deployable, execute worldwide combat search and rescue (CSAR), and sustain operations around the world during both war and peace.

They are RAF Lakenheath's 56th and 57th Rescue Squadrons, comprised of two weapon systems: the HH-60G Pave Hawks and the Guardian Angel pararescuemen, respectively.

Both squadrons recently completed a two-week, multinational exercise known as Joint Warrior 15-1 in Scotland.

"Here at Joint Warrior we are training for different scenarios that provide us with training for various possibilities we could encounter in the future," said Staff Sgt. Henry Flores, a 56th RQS special missions aviator. "We started off with different threat possibilities that we could encounter."

Special mission aviators , like Flores, are tasked with firing the Pave Hawk's .50-caliber machine gun. They also provide CSAR capabilities for both their aircrew and downed personnel, control the aircraft's hoist and provide protection to the aircraft using their weapons.

During the multinational training, military personnel from 14 countries practiced threat-reaction scenarios and flew long missions, both day and night.

"Training out here allows us to step away from that possibility of getting complacent of the things that we're used to seeing every day," Flores said. "Opening up to a different environment allows us to see different things, provide approaches, and encounter different possibilities we may need to maneuver around."

According to Flores, the rescue squadrons find it important to attend exercises like Joint Warrior, to train in various types of situations. During the exercise, they performed tactical combat maneuvers over both land and sea to prepare for real-world operations.

"We performed terminal area engagement as well as mountain flying, which gave us the ability to perform high-density altitude training," said Capt. Sky Jensen, a 56th RQS pilot and chief of weapons and tactics. "They have a great range here for us to be able to shoot our weapons so we can do land training."

Practicing flying and operating in different environments is an essential part of training for special mission operations, as the squadron can respond to incidents worldwide.

"We train for personnel recovery, combat search and rescue missions, medical evacuations; basically a wide variety of what the helicopter can provide," Flores added.

The Guardian Angel pararescuemen, also known as PJs, are responsible for recovering and medically treating personnel involved in hazardous situations. These elite, combat forces are trained to survive in harsh environments.

"We try to make every full mission profile or whatever training we're doing as realistic as possible," said Staff Sgt. Christopher Sanders, a 57th RQS pararescueman journeyman. "We use it as a time to bring up short falls we haven't realized yet so that hopefully they come out in training and not when we're downrange."

The pararescue community is small, which provides motive for the PJs to work closely together, in an integrated working environment.

"PJs by nature - we are all pretty diverse," Sanders said. "Even though we have a lot of the same training, we have slightly different ways of thinking. By doing training like this, it gets us all on the same page. So, when we do it for real, we don't have to think about it as much - we pretty much know what's going to happen."

For Airmen like Flores, who are new to the unit, getting to know the people you fly and train with can be vital.

"A lot of these training sorties are helping me get to know the rest of the crew," Flores said. "So future missions we will be able to mesh a lot better."

Joint Warrior provided them the opportunity to work closely with not only their units, but also military members from different countries.

"It's a great opportunity for us to teach about combat search and rescue, personnel recovery, as well as build that partnership with our allies that play in the exercise and learn about their contribution to future combat capabilities," Jensen said.

Having open communication and learning from one another is a concept that is greatly enforced during these multinational exercises.

"The British have been awesome," Jensen added. "They have housed, supported us, and given us a place to work out of, so building partnership with them has been a great experience for everyone here."