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23rd Wing aircrew in Chile practice rescue ops during SALITRE

  • Published
  • By Capt. Nathan D. Broshear
  • Twelfth Air Force (Air Forces Southern) Public Affairs
Last week, members of the 23rd Wing, 71st Rescue Squadron trained together with Chilean Air Force (Fuerza Aerea Chile, or FACh) special forces from the No. 8 Squadron at Cerro Moreno Air Base in Antofagasta, Chile to practice search and rescue techniques, inserting and retrieving medical teams in remote locations, and high-altitude airfield operations in the mountainous terrain of Northern Chile.

The sorties, part of the five-nation SALITRE exercise, were a cooperative effort meant train members of participating nations in coalition peacekeeping missions, humanitarian operations and disaster response. Aircraft and personnel from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, France and the United States flew missions over the Atacama desert as a simulated coalition response to forces within an island nation. In reality, crews operated in a number of designated areas over land and water to practice the skills necessary to integrate into a United Nations-type effort.

The mission profile for many of the exercise rescue sorties was the same; a group of people are in need of immediate medical attention or rescue, the combined USAF-FACh crews respond with Commandos and rescue aircraft such as the HC-130.

"We're able to use the HC-130 platform to land at remote airfields after airdropping the pararescue jumpers into an area," said Capt. James Renner, the HC-130 navigator. "They'll stabilize, treat and ready patients for transport, then we'll land, load the patients and transport them back to better medical facilities as quickly as possible."

On many missions, the crew hosted observers from participating nations, media and public affairs support. "The point of this exercise is to learn from one another and to learn to work together," said Capt. Renner. "We've been lucky to have the chance to meet and get to know other rescue professionals....if we can bring along a C-130 aircrew member to exchange information with us or a local media member to tell the rescue story, then that's an added benefit to the entire rescue community."

Staff Sgt. Eduardo Clemente, the team's independent duty medical technician, took a brief delay in takeoff time to hold an impromptu self-aid and buddy care exchange. The opportunity to showcase the Air Force's newest splints, braces and tourniquets to his Chilean counterparts using his native Spanish skills, has been one of the most rewarding parts of the the exercise deployment.

"Chile has many areas with rugged terrain, a long coastline and wilderness regions," said Sergeant Saldivar. "The rescue personnel I've worked with during SALITRE are ready and able to respond anywhere, anytime - the chance to train together in this type of terrain benefits both of our rescue teams."

During the SALITRE exercise, the HC-130 crew also participated in several community outreach events, including visiting a local hospital, orphanage and exercise 'open house.' Moody aircrews were featured in local and international newspapers, TV stories and blogs for their altruistic efforts.

"It's a natural extension of our rescue career field to find ways to help people," said Sergeant Clemente. "We're fortunate to have been able to participate in this training, and to make a difference in the lives of local citizens in Chile."