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Commander Parachutes With Reserve Rescue Wing

  • Published
  • By Bo Joyner

Calling it the thrill of a lifetime, Lt. Gen. John Healy had the opportunity to take part in a tandem parachute jump from the back of a 920th Rescue Wing HC-130J Combat King II aircraft at Patrick Space Force Base, Florida, in October.

Healy, the chief of the Air Force Reserve and commander of Air Force Reserve Command, teamed up with Senior Master Sgt. Matthew Williams, 308th Rescue Squadron pararescueman, for the tandem jump. Master Sgt. Richard Dunn, 308th RQS pararescueman, exited the aircraft before the general and Williams and provided video coverage of the event.

Also on the flight, 920th Rescue Wing Command Chief Master Sgt. James Loper jumped tandem with Senior Master Sgt. Kyle Oler, 308th RQS Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape specialist. Oler is the only SERE specialist tandem-qualified for the 308th RQS and is one of the only Military Tandem Tethered Bundle qualified in his career field.

Tech. Sgt. Alex Dastmalchi, 308th RQS pararescueman and primary jump master, Staff Sgt. Yosuel Garcia, 308th RQS pararescueman and assistant jump master, and Master Sgt. Kelly Goonan, 920th Rescue Wing public affairs photojournalist and superintendent, stayed aboard during the flight.

The Combat King II flight crew was comprised of Lt. Col. William Perry, 39th Rescue Squadron pilot; Maj. Jeffrey Broffman, 39th RQS pilot and aircraft commander; Master Sgt. Marcus Hildebrand, 39th RQS loadmaster; and Tech. Sgt Austin Schwier, 39th RQS loadmaster.

The pararescuemen and Healy jumped from 10,000 feet.

During his visit to Patrick, Healy also had the opportunity to fly aboard one of the 920th RQW’s HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters flown by 1st Lt. Dave Popovich and Lt. Col. Chadd Bloomstine, and crewed by Senior Master Sgts. Bill Allen and Chris Mora Matos, 301st RQS special missions aviators.

Senior Airman Sam Becker, Space Launch Delta 45 photojournalist, took imagery on the ground of the general and within the HH-60. Loper also was also on the Pave Hawk for the low-level familiarization flight.

Healy’s visit to the 920th Rescue Wing gave him the opportunity to see first-hand the unique mission carried out by the more than 2,000 Reserve Citizen Airmen assigned to the combat search and rescue wing. The 920th is the Reserve’s only wing with the mission to plan, lead and conduct military rescue operations and missions that deny competitors and adversaries the exploitation of isolated personnel.

The 920th Rescue Wing comprises 25 subordinate groups and squadrons, including three geographically separated units; the 943d Rescue Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, the 304th Rescue Squadron at Portland, Oregon, and the 920th Aerospace Medicine Flight at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia.

The wing has recorded more than 1,200 combat rescues since 2000, including Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, who documented his ordeal in the best-selling novels “Lone Survivor” and “Service.”

The rescue wing also has been a mainstay in humanitarian relief, rescuing 137 South Florida residents during the 18 days following Hurricane Andrew in 1992; saving 93 elderly residents from rising flood waters at their Tampa-area retirement community in 1993; rescuing more than 200 people after Hurricane Floyd in 1999 and pulling 1,049 people from New Orleans and the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina and Rita in 2005.

“I am so impressed with the Reserve Citizen Airmen of the 920th Rescue Wing,” Healy said after his visit. “They maintain an extremely high level of proficiency and must be ready to deploy at a moment’s notice. It was an honor to get an up-close and personal look at what they do every day.”

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