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Moody Airmen test capabilities during exercise in Virginia

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Ryan Callaghan
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs

dovThe 347th Rescue Group and the 23rd Maintenance Group from Moody AFB tested their ability to quickly set up flying operations in an austere environment during a Rapid Rescue exercise May 15 through 18 at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia.

The exercise capitalized on a rare opportunity to integrate search and rescue techniques with an escort by F-22 Raptors and showcased the aeromedical evacuation capabilities of Pararescuemen from the 38th Rescue Squadron.

“Employing rapid rescue techniques shows the American commitment to leaving no Airman behind,” said Lt. Col. Jennifer Aupke, 347th Operations Support Squadron director of operations. “The Air Force can send rescue assets to any theater, anytime, with minimal notice.

“This exercise shows that not only can the Air Force employ its advanced fifth generation capabilities anywhere, it will do it with no degradation to the commitment of leaving no Airman behind,” Aupke added. “Our pilots can execute their mission without any reservations because they know our combat search and rescue forces will ensure their safe return.”

Supporting the exercise was the 3rd Airlift Squadron, who provided transportation and simulated aeromedical evacuation along the East Coast. The exercise began when Airmen from the 41st Helicopter Maintenance Unit loaded two HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters into a C-17A Globemaster III aircraft from the 3rd AS.

“We can't employ rapid rescue without C-17s, they are the main form of transportation to move our helicopters and equipment globally,” Aupke said.  “They ensure the global reach of our air power.”

Once on station, the two combat search and rescue teams flew out over the Atlantic Ocean aboard their helicopters to rescue members of a simulated incident. Shortly thereafter, three personnel, who suffered simulated injuries, were retrieved and transported to the C-17 awaiting rapid aeromedical evacuation. 

“I’ve never actually done a casualty evacuation on a C-17, and I’m almost positive nobody else on my team has either,” said Tech. Sgt. Eric Braddock, 38th RQS pararescue team leader. “It was extremely eye-opening for us. It was a very good experience for us to see the amount of space we have available and how the stanchions are laid out. The crew really helped us out too. By the time we got there, they had everything ready for us, and we were airborne in no time. I hope we get even more training opportunities like this.”

While the PJs treated patients onboard the C-17, the aircraft flew under the protection of a four-ship F-22 Raptor formation. Once over the Atlantic, the escort called for the cargo plane to make a tactical decent to 500 feet, nearly skimming the water, when simulated aggressors entered the air space.

For the next 30 minutes, the smaller, more nimble Raptors engaged in a dogfight with the aggressive T-38 Talons as the bulky C-17 safely flew along the ocean surface.

“Participating in this exercise allowed us to integrate the combat search and rescue and combat air force assets in an evolving and dynamic landscape,” said Capt. Ryan Nichol, 3rd AS instructor pilot. “Working across major commands gave us a unique chance to gain perspective on each other’s capabilities. It afforded us the opportunity to perfect the way we work together in a training environment so we can execute flawlessly when it counts. These types of opportunities hone our skills and we look forward to working together in future exercises.”

(Senior Airman Aaron Jenne, 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, contributed to this article.)