Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Dedicated Search and Rescue Aircraft is Vital

Will this never end. My first assignment was in the 67 ARRS in Woodbridge England. We did everything from combat rescue, to space shuttle recovery prepositioning, to sharing the sea rescue ops with the Brits in the North Sea and the English Channel. America's forces aren't the only ones that depended on us either. We heard from the Joint Rescue Command Center. We sometimes got diverted in route when we were heading to Keflavik to sit alert for the 57th Fighter Intercepter Squadron.
We had a fleet of 6 tankers (HC-130's) and we stayed busy. When a disaster hit, we had to rotate tankers. I think people are ill informed on what these planes do. The HC-130 plays on scene commander, burning fuel searching, then when they locate either people, wreckage or an emergency locator transmitter, they call in the choppers, and usually have to stay on scene to refuel the helicopters. They also have PJs on board and tons of equipment. Rescue is not a mission you can throw together at a moments notice. These guys train and train hard 24/7/365. One of the worst days of my life was during a PJ training mission when one of the PJs was killed going out my airplane. He slipped on the jump platform and hit his head on the back side of the airplane. The force of the wind threw his head against the airplane and despite having his helmet on, it crushed his skull and he was dead instantly. The rescue mission is dangerous, requires lots of training, specialized aircraft that stay equipped and at the ready. As a prior aircrew member,both in and out of rescue, I can attest to the fact that just knowing a competent rescue force is there is a calming factor for aviators. I flew during the first Gulf War and in other operations and can tell you that rescue is so important, it is always part of briefings, sometimes the classified part and it is one thing that crews pay close attention to.
As a prior ARRS member, I will be watching this one. As a prior crew member, I pray rescue is improved, not diminished. We would hate to lose airmen because we tried to save a couple dollars. No life is worth that, especially not the life of a volunteer service member.

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