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563rd RQG Salutes SEAC #4

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Abbey Rieves
  • 355th Wing Public Affairs

Chuff chuff chuff.

The HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter roars to life, like a heartbeat quickening during a race.

The chuffing sound of the rotors even out into a familiar, steady pulse while he pulls on his ear protection. 

As a career pararescueman, the Department of Defense’s only joint rank service member, has flown countless hours in Pave Hawks like this.

Clank. The Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman clips his gunner belt around his waist, securing him for flight.

Hand signals from the crew chiefs communicate to the helo pilots. 563rd Rescue Group, ready for takeoff.

In a career lasting over 33 years, this human weapon system understands the need to sustain and strengthen deterrence against China through continued growth in the pararescue field.

“I have been able to witness the generational commitment of the Guardian Angel, combat search and rescue,” said U.S. Air Force SEAC Ramón “CZ” Colón-López. “The strides, feats and progress this career field has made, especially over the past 20 years of war.”

Throughout wartime, Colón-López deployed numerous times and continues to lead the Department of Defense with expertise only understood by someone whose combat boots searched for Osama Bin Laden.

“It’s a very proud moment to see people now that I put through pararescue school,” said Colón-López. “Back then they were brand new Airmen, now they are running the show.”  

In 2004, the SEAC shared his knowledge and developed hundreds of Pararescue pipeliners, to include the now Senior Master Sgt. Joshua Andrada who is the 563rd Rescue Group’s standards and evaluations superintendent at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona.

“The greatest value CZ taught me was to be a patriot and a warrior with a never-quit mindset,” said Andrada. “To remember my oath of enlistment and that the only colors that matter are the ones on an American Flag.”

Colón-López was also assigned to the 48th Rescue Squadron at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, which is now located at Davis-Monthan, where it holds true to its lineage: Train, equip and employ combat-ready pararescuemen, combat rescue officers and supporting personnel worldwide.

“No matter what is going on in this world,” said Andrada, who’s military service is more than 20 years. “A dedication to civil service and more specifically, rescue, is a righteous way to live each day to your fullest potential.”

Keeping U.S. national security interests in mind, the SEAC praised the ingenuity and dedication of CSAR.

“I have seen how we have advanced our techniques and procedures for not only the pararescue career field, but for many other medical branches across the joint force,” said the SEAC. “They continue to lead the charge for the Department of Defense, bringing the latest technology to the fight.”

Advancing this effort, the 355th Wing is actively replacing the HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters with the whiskey fleet, set to be accomplished by 2024. The new HH-60W Jolly Green II helicopters are equipped with advanced avionics, new navigation systems and substantially upgraded survivor authentication capabilities.

“We are seeing our competitors modernizing their fleet, and we need to continue to lead the charge when that fight comes,” said Colón-López. “We need to have a couple ace’s up our sleeve to keep the element of surprise, coupled with our combat forces experience.”

The new HH-60W Jolly Green II helicopters assigned to the 55th Rescue Squadron have a dual purpose, utilized in military operations such as civil search and rescue, disaster relief, international aid, emergency medical evacuation and counter-drug activities.

“CSAR is more important to the American public, than just the Air Force,” said Colón-López, his deep brown eyes widened with emphasis. “PJs train to the extreme level, to make sure we are at our BEST, when someone is having their worst day.”

As one of the only active duty wings dedicated to CSAR, the 355th Wing builds warfighting Airmen who are ready to attack and rescue.

“These men and women live, breathe and train to make sure they can provide somebody else the chance to live,” the SEAC continued. “Knowing their dedication level in that mission, they will not fail. They will give their life before they fail.”

Chuff chuff chuff. The 563rd RQG helo forcefully lifts from the ground, and SEAC Colón-López embarks on his fini flight over the Ohio River, in Louisville, Kentucky, September 6, 2023.