DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. --
The 48th and 79th Rescue Squadrons forward staged from Davis-Monthan to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, to conduct total force integration cold weather operations training from Feb. 7-20, 2021.
Davis-Monthan's rescue units integrated with the 210th, 211th and 212th Alaskan Air National Guard Rescue Squadrons for: de-icing operations; low-level mountainous flying; cold weather procedures; skiing and snow machine travel; glacier travel and rescue; cold weather weapons and tactics; and cold weather medicine. They finished their training with a full mission profile exercise.
"The original plan to airdrop the pararescue team onto a remote drop zone was canceled due to a storm, an important lesson on the impact of bad weather on operations," said U.S. Air Force Capt. Timothy Smith, 48th RQS combat rescue officer. "Flexing the plan, the HC-130 [J Combat King II]s from the 79th airdropped a bundle of skis to the 48th RQS PJ team. The team skied overland to link up with a downed pilot, remained overnight camping in the snow, provided medical treatment to the patient and coordinated with the 210th HH-60 [G Pave Hawk II]s for pickup."
When operating in a complex and logistically challenging arctic environment, core rescue skill sets such as overland travel, communication, medicine, weapons and tactics require modification.
"As a community we’ve been so focused on operations in the Middle East that we rarely get the chance to test our skill sets in different environments," said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Rob Watkins, 48th RQS PJ team flight chief. "This training provided tremendous experience on overcoming the challenges of the arctic and accomplishing the mission.”
The 48th and 79th RQSs are hoping to make this exercise a yearly occurrence by maintaining the relationships they made with the Alaskan Air National Guard units.
"Arctic airlift was an invaluable experience in cold weather operations," said U.S. Air Force Capt. Matthew Fischer, 79th RQS HC-130J pilot. "The effects of negative temperatures on maintenance and flying operations were hard lessons to learn, but the crews adapted well and the mission outcomes reflect their resiliency. Being the project officer afforded me the opportunity to learn from JBER’s base agencies and develop relationships that are sure to last for years to come."
Integrating with other units in new environments provides critical training for the rescue group as they continue developing new tactics and procedures. These training scenarios ensure the Airmen can execute their mission anytime, anyplace against any adversary.