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Deployed rescue group Airmen provide confidence, combat rescue capability to ground forces

  • Published
  • By Tech Sgt Beth Del Vecchio
  • U.S. Air Forces Central Public Affairs
The 26th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron compliments the traditional personnel recovery mission with medical evacuation operations in Afghanistan's Regional Command Southwest.

The squadron's aircrew, support personnel and maintenance Airmen, Reservists deployed from the 943rd Rescue Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., a geographically separated group from the 920th Rescue Wing at Patrick AFB, Fla., augment the MEDEVAC capability here with Guardian Angel pararescuemen aboard HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters.

The Pave Hawk is a highly modified version of the Black Hawk helicopter, which features specialized rescue mission equipment including a hoist capable of lifting a 600-pound load from a hover height of 200 feet. The Pave Hawk helicopter aircrews are teamed with Air Force pararescuemen and Combat Rescue Officers, also known as PJs and CROs, together they are the only Defense Department elite combat forces specifically organized, trained, equipped and postured to conduct full spectrum personnel recovery to include conventional and unconventional combat rescue operations.

For coalition forces on the ground, the presence of the 26th ERQS "Pedro" operations can give assurance that they will be taken care of if the worst may happen, according to Lt. Col. Brett Howard, 26th ERQS commander.

"We will get them to a facility for life-saving care so they can get back to the fight or back to their families," he said. "I think having that confidence allows them to prosecute the mission that much more vigorously."

Howard says the Pedro operations fit in well with the fixed-wing MEDEVAC operations of the 76th ERQS, also at Camp Bastion.

"We can provide immediate response closer to the point of injury and once we get them back to the medical facility for immediate care, that's when the hand-off may go to the HC-130s to transport to a higher care facility elsewhere," he said.

Capt. Brough McDonald, Combat Rescue HH-60 pilot with the 26th ERQS, said the capabilities of the Pave Hawk are a true force multiplier.

"When you look at the combat rescue family here, you have the rescue vehicle, which is the HH-60G Pave Hawk, onboard you have the Guardian Angel weapon system and then to compliment that, you have the HC-130 King. We are all combat rescue Airmen," he said. "I can come in and land close to the point of injury. I can also hover to execute a hoist and assist the pararescuemen on the ground, even execute operations in adverse weather conditions. But I can't go very far, so the King truly extends my reach."

Since Airmen from the 920th Rescue Wing have assumed alert Pedro operations here June 3, 2011, they have flown more than 762 missions and had 513 saves of life, limb or eyesight.

McDonald says he has one of the noblest Air Force missions there is.

"We live up to the rescue motto 'that others may live.' We own the mission and we are always thinking about the survivor, with everything we do," he said. "We are constantly preparing and learning the battle space, because we owe it to that survivor to be the best we can be."

Howard agrees that the mission is one he truly appreciates.

"Just today, I was speaking to some Marines and they offered up unsolicited thanks for what we do for them. That says it all right there. When it means so much to other people, what we do, you take a lot of pride in what you're doing," he said. "Getting forces back to the fight, saving lives - there's no better mission."

To learn more about the 920th RQW, visit their Facebook page or follow them on Twitter.