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563rd Rescue Group Conducting Real World Rescue

  • Published
  • By Maj. Sarah Schwennesen
  • ANGEL THUNDER Public Affairs
Two HC-130J Combat King II, three HH-60G Pavehawks and ten Guardian Angel Personnel, with 49 Airmen from the 48th, 79th and 55th Rescue Squadrons (RQS), are currently conducting missions over 1,100 nautical miles off the Pacific coast of Mexico, rescuing two critically burned sailors aboard a Venezuelan fishing boat in the Pacific Ocean.

"We not only rescue pilots, we are prepared to rescue anyone, anytime, anywhere, when tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC)," said Col. Sean Choquette, 563rd RQG Commander. "Our Airmen train diligently to execute difficult missions like this one."

Yesterday Airmen from the 563rd Rescue Group (RQG) flew in a 79th RQS Combat King II aircraft for nearly 11 hours, to parachute Guardian Angel Personnel near the ship, with two inflatable zodiac boat packages and medical equipment, so that they could deliver lifesaving care and stabilize the injured sailors.

"We have three factors that are in our favor, for this particular mission: the 563rd RQG was ready for Exercise ANGEL THUNDER, which trains Rescue personnel for situations very similar to this mission. The 79th RQS has the Combat King IIs, the newest C-130 models in the Air Force, that are capable of aerial refueling, enabling them to travel farther and deliver lifesaving care faster. The 161st Air Refueling Wing was already part of the ANGEL THUNDER team, and with a telephone call from the exercise director, Mr. Brett Hartnett, could immediately support our need for refueling over the Pacific Ocean," Colonel Choquette said.

In the next couple of days, the HH-60G Pavehawk helicopters will hoist the sailors and Guardian Angels from the ship, transport them to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, where they will be loaded onto a 79th RQS HC-130J Combat King II aircraft, and flown to the La Jolla Burn Facility in California.

"Water rescues are highly complex and the distance which required multiple aerial refueling missions, present more challenges in this rescue," said Maj. Scott Rein, 563rd RQG Operations Center planner. "Everyone has complicated tasks in this mission; from the Guardian Angels treating injured sailors with equipment they had to parachute in with, to aviators who are flying very long missions and support personnel who are executing their roles at a remote airfield in Mexico, everyone is rising to the occasion."

Airmen from intelligence, communications, maintenance, logistics, operations and special mission aviators from the 563rd RQG are executing this civil rescue mission due to an AFRCC tasking. The Rescue Group is part of the 23rd Wing, out of Moody Air Force Base, Georgia.

"The amount of personnel involved in this rescue mission is standard, in terms of deploying a package capable of maintaining operations in a non-military location, and performing maintenance and logistics operations for the Airmen and aircraft involved," said Lt. Col. Peter White, Exercise ANGEL THUNDER Deputy Director. "The real challenge of this rescue is in the communication realm, in which critical medical and country coordination information needs are complicated with the language barriers."