MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --
Members of the 41st and 71st Rescue Squadrons returned home from a deployment in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, 5-9 June.
The 41st and 71st RQSs were responsible for conducting combat search and rescue missions ensuring that someone’s worst day isn’t their last day.
“We were on alert 24/7 to ensure that if there is ever an Airman, Sailor, Marine, or Soldier who is isolated, we are prepared to return them to friendly control,” said Lt. Col. Michael Thompson, 71st RQS director of operations. “One thing that set this deployment apart from others that I’ve been on is that all three Rescue [components], the HC-130, HH-60 and Guardian Angels, were together in a single location. We planned together and executed together as a cohesive rescue team.
“We had the opportunity to really get to know how each of the other pieces of the [rescue] triad work and the thinking that goes into their mission planning,” added Thompson.
Working together, the 71st, 41st and the 55th RQSs were the airborne team providing personnel recovery operations for U.S. Central Command while the Guardian Angels of the 48th RQS provided the ground team.
“These guys are the cream of the crop,” said Lt. Col. Chris Richardson, 41st RQS commander. “Whenever we make the promise that nobody will be left behind, we hold to that oath. We’re coming to get you. These guys live up to it every single day and believe me, when you’re over there, in that position, there’s never a moment when you want to let anybody down.”
These Airmen are constantly training for these missions while at their home station, but there are still variables that training can’t always prepare them for.
“Logistics and weather were probably our two largest obstacles during the deployment,” said Thompson. “The first week we were in theater our location was hit by a winter storm, which reduced our alert posture. At one point, we even sent an aircraft to a forward base in Iraq to be certain that we could launch on a mission if we were called upon.
“The other obstacle, logistics, affected us more often. Often, our own logistics capability wasn’t enough because of the Turkish custom’s requirements so we were forced to be flexible and come up with creative ways to ensure that we were able to maintain alert even when we didn’t have everything we needed.”
Although the rescue teams remained on-call for more than 2,800 hours, luckily no aircraft or personnel became isolated during their deployment. The rescue teams are crucial enough that if for some reason they weren’t available, the flying and fighting ceased.
“Bottom line, if personnel recovery is not available for our Airmen, they don’t fly,” said Thompson.
While maintaining the standard for personnel recovery may be cut and dry, Richardson explained that dismantling the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is a complex team effort with many moving parts. Regardless, the rescue mission remains, ‘these things we do, that others may live.’
“There’s a lot of our U.S., joint or coalition partners out there doing a lot of good things and taking it to the enemy,” said Richardson. “It’s our job to make sure those guys don’t fall into enemy hands.”