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Rescue Reservists train with Royal Canadian Air Force

An HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter and a CH-149 Cormorant helicopter park in the Florida Keys during a U.S.-Canada search-and-rescue exercise March 5, 2016. Rescue Airmen from the 920th Rescue Wing, Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., have been working alongside Canadian search-and-rescue technicians annually for more than a decade. (courtesy photo)

An HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter and a CH-149 Cormorant helicopter park in the Florida Keys during a U.S.-Canada search-and-rescue exercise March 5, 2016. Rescue Airmen from the 920th Rescue Wing, Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., have been working alongside Canadian search-and-rescue technicians annually for more than a decade. (courtesy photo)

An HH-60 Pave Hawk Helicopter from the 920th Rescue Wing flies over the Florida Keys during a search-and-rescue exercise with Canadian rescue personnel March 5, 2016. (courtesy photo)

An HH-60 Pave Hawk Helicopter from the 920th Rescue Wing flies over the Florida Keys during a search-and-rescue exercise with Canadian rescue personnel March 5, 2016. (courtesy photo)

An HC-130 King shadow appears in the waters off Key West, Fla., March 5, 2016. Rescue Airmen from the 920th Rescue Wing, Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., were there to train alongside Canadian rescue personnel during the annual search-and-rescue exercise. (courtesy photo)

An HC-130 King shadow appears in the waters off Key West, Fla., March 5, 2016. Rescue Airmen from the 920th Rescue Wing, Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., were there to train alongside Canadian rescue personnel during the annual search-and-rescue exercise. (courtesy photo)

PARTICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- More than 100 Airmen from the 920th Rescue Wing here trained with Royal Canadian Air Force search-and-rescue personnel during an annual exercise in Key West, Florida, March 2-6.

During the search-and-rescue exercise, or SAREX, the Reserve Airmen and their counterparts practiced land and water rescue operations on the island just 90 miles from Cuba. The 920th RQW supported the exercise with two HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters and three HC-130P/N King refueling aircraft, while the Canadians flew one CH-149 Cormorant helicopter and two CC-130 Hercules aircraft.

Col. Brett Howard, 920th RQW vice commander, said the SAREX was important because the U.S. and Canadian service members got an opportunity to train together in realistic scenarios and practice combat and domestic rescue operations, which makes them better prepared to save lives.

"Search-and-rescue units from both nations practiced real-world based scenarios to hone their skills while at the same time engaging in some friendly competition," Howard said. "The scenarios tested nearly all phases of search-and-rescue efforts to ensure a high training value."

The Canada vs. United States SAREX competition is a fun way for both countries to get hands-on training, make new connections, and learn about each other's organizations and processes, Howard said. The competition consisted of feats such as best C-130 landing, airdrop closest to target, and parachute landing closest to target.

The winner of the competition took home the coveted "Rescue Cup," their version of the Stanley Cup. After a fierce competition, the U.S. sealed their victory and took the cup back from the Canadians, last year's reining champs. Regardless of who brought home the cup this year, both teams won, Howard said.

"The skill level and professionalism demonstrated by all has been very impressive," he said. "It has been an honor to work beside and share lessons learned with our Canadian partners."

The 920th RQW has been participating in SAREXs with various Canadian search-and-rescue wings both in the U.S. and Canada for more than a decade. This was the first time Capt. Travis Posey, 301st Rescue Squadron HH-60 pilot, participated in a SAREX. He said he was glad to have the opportunity to work alongside such strong and dedicated rescue partners.

"It was great to work with an organization that specializes in rescue but values different aspects of the mission," Posey said. "Our Canadian partners allow us to compete and hone our rescue skills competitively, which allows individuals a chance to enjoy the experience."

Posey said this was a great learning experience for him and his fellow Airmen.

"In any rescue operation, communication is the key to success, and we learned to communicate with a partner who communicates differently than we do," he said. "The value of this exercise is that it gives our organization the opportunity to showcase our capabilities and test them in a fun and unique way."

At the end of the day, Howard said it's all about saving lives. The 920th RQW and Canadian search-and-rescue personnel share the same motto: "These things we do, that others may live."

The 920th RQW units that participated in the SAREX include the 301st RQS, 39th RQS, 308th RQS, 920th Maintenance Group, 920th Operations Support Squadron, and 920th Mission Support Group. The Royal Canadian Air Force units that participated in the exercise include the 14th Wing from Greenwood, Nova Scotia; 9th Wing from Gander, Newfoundland; and 103rd Search and Rescue Squadron from Gander. The Coast Guard from Miami also participated.