Angel Thunder comes to a close

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Saphfire Cook
  • 355th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
After flying more than 800 hours, running about 400 scenarios, and making approximately 200 rescues participants in Angel Thunder 2012 touched down for the last time Thursday Oct. 20, bringing the personnel recovery and rescue exercise to a close.

Sixteen different countries spent time and money to be a part of this exercise - seven of them as observers and nine as actual players. Approximately 1,400 U.S. military, federal and state employees, and coalition forces participated in the fifth-annual Angel Thunder exercise, the largest military combat search and rescue exercise in the world.

Angel Thunder is designed to provide an opportunity to practice combat search and rescue maneuvers and a forum to discuss logistics and work out any problems, said Mr. Brett Hartnett, Angel Thunder coordinator.

Countries choose to participate in Angel Thunder for different reasons. Swedish Air Force Ranger Tech. Sgt. Robert Hedman said that his country has been developing a CSAR ground team and came to Angel Thunder to see how the missions were conducted from start to finish. Pakistan Air Force Capt. Farhat Nadeem, training director, said they were sent to learn more about CSAR tactics due to recent national disasters in their area.

The countries spent two weeks intermingling and learning different approaches to CSAR, immersing themselves in the sands of the desert and the waters of the lakes surrounding Tucson.

"In Afghanistan we work with different countries while conducting CSAR missions," said Royal Netherlands Army Captain Willem Steens, special forces. "I think it's better to come to exercises such as Angel Thunder to get experiences with these different assets so that you aren't 'learning on the job' during an operation."

Many countries were unfamiliar with Arizona's desert terrain, coming from more precipitous climates.

"The environment here is similar to that of Afghanistan so it gives us an opportunity to train in terrain that we do not have in our country," said Royal Danish Air Force Master Sgt. Brian Pedersen, CSAR course instructor. "Being here also gave us the chance to fly longer missions. Denmark is a small country, so we don't fly long hours while at home."

Angel Thunder is an annual exercise and allows countries to share their expertise and try out new tactics.

"Getting to know other countries and picking their brains about how they conduct their CSAR missions is a great way to get an overview of the entire pararescue operation," said Royal Canadian Air Force Sergeant Richard Seaton, pararescue school instructor.