Civil engineer gains rescue perspective

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- Emerge Moody was able to experience its first taste of the rescue side of the house beginning with opening remarks from two of the four squadron commanders within the 347th Rescue Group on March 9, 2017, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga.

Lt. Col. Gary Symon, 71st Rescue Squadron commander, began by explaining that the 347th RQG is a triad of combat search and rescue capabilities: the HC-130J Combat King II, the HH-60G Pave Hawk and Pararescuemen, known as the Guardian Angels. Our day was spent focusing on one of the three capabilities, the HC-130J Combat King II, along with its support system in the 347th Operations Support Squadron and the 723d Air Maintenance Squadron.
After hearing what the units had planned to show us during the day, we headed over to the 71st RQS and listened in on a mission brief given by Maj. Patrick Robinson, HC-130J pilot. They were headed out to St. Petersburg, Fla., near the Gulf of Mexico.

Not a bad way to spend a Thursday right? Maybe head to the beach, grab some seafood?

Not exactly, Robinson went through the entire mission itinerary within a few minutes and used acronyms and pilot jargon that most of our Emerge Moody class couldn’t fully understand. While Robinson briefed each of the crew was able to view their flight plan using personal tablets. Despite noticing the new technology utilized in the briefing one key point I was able to catch was that during the days planned scenario they would simulate receiving a call from the Coast Guard concerning a distressed boat.

After hearing about the planned scenario for the day our class was extremely interested in learning more about joint operations between the coast guard and the 71st RQS. Not only can the 71st support rescue operations down range, but not too far from home station their skills and resources can be lifesaving. At any time, a HC-130J could be pulled off of a training scenario and sent into a real world mission.
The HC-130Js at Moody are the newest model of HC-130, and of the 9 aircraft stationed at Moody, the last J-model arrived just over one year ago. A few of our Emerge Moody maintainer classmates were particularly interested in hearing about the many differences between the old and new models. One of the major differences that was stressed was that the new model is equipped with a system that “tells on the pilot.”

Before each mission a card is inserted into the plane and it records and tracks its every movement. When the mission is complete, the card is removed and a report is produced, explaining each and every mistake made by the crew and also the components of the plane that need to be fixed. I’ve heard about so called “smart cars” before but now I know the Air Force is flying smart planes. I wonder how long it will take us to equip all of our equipment with this new smart technology?

The HC-130J flight simulator was our next stop on our visit, the closest most of us will probably ever get to flying. In the simulator, we attempted to be refueled by a KC-135 Stratotanker. Not only can the HC-130J be refueled by the KC-135 but it can also refuel rotary aircraft such as the HH-60G and the U.S. Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion.

A highlight during our time at the aircraft simulator was the opportunity to hear the story behind the namesake of the building in which the simulator is housed. Airman First Class Justin R. Wood an HC-130 loadmaster assigned to the 71st RQS was killed during the Khobar Towers bombing in 1996. Wood flew in 34 combat missions before his death and his actions contributed to the 71st RQS saving 10 lives. The building is dedicated in remembrance of Wood and the other five heroic airmen killed that day. After driving by the simulator building hundreds of times I am glad I can now share A1C Wood’s history to others.

With our new flying skills and appreciation for the meaning behind the buildings namesake, we set out to learn more about one of the 17 career fields in the 347th OSS over at aerial delivery. Air transportation Airmen briefed us about their unique opportunity to prepare training pallets for the load masters on the HC-130J to practice their air drop capabilities. Inside a warehouse, that many of us drive by without even second guessing, is a Humvee, a Polaris RZR, and several other rows of containers, each strapped down and equipped with parachutes all ready to be dropped out of a HC-130J. The transportation Airmen take their job seriously and they are charged with having the upmost focus and precision to ensure things are packed correctly. The risk of damaging these assets is high but not as high as the reward of getting them to the places and people they need to be.

Our last stop of the day was to see airmen hard at work in preventive maintenance. In one large hanger, several airmen in bright orange suits were washing and cleaning the highly advanced rescue machines. It takes about two days to fully clean a HC-130J and the maintainers are very focused on making sure these aircraft have that “new plane feel” for as long as possible. The HC-130J is the only dedicated fixed-wing personnel recovery platform in the Air Force and the airmen that work on and with these aircraft everyday do so with passion and focused dedication.

Emerge Moody is a unique opportunity to learn about the many different critical missions Moody Airmen perform day-in and day-out. It is a nine month program with monthly day long emersions. As a civil engineer officer, I would not know as much as I do now about the different aspects of the Flying Tiger mission without this program. I am able to do my job as an engineer better because of it. If you get a chance to apply to this program, do not hesitate. I can guarantee you will not be disappointed.