VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --
An aircraft crashed. Both pilots successfully ejected, but have wounds varying from traumatic brain injuries to deep cuts and contusions. Having received intelligence, pilots and crew of an HC-130J Combat King II take off, followed by two HH-60G Pave Hawk’s that carrying teams of pararescuemen.
Their mission is to locate and rescue both survivors from potentially hostile territory. This was an exercise scenario Airmen faced during Tiger Rescue IV, March 27-30, 2018, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.
The four-day exercise challenged Airmen from multiple rescue squadrons to bring the capabilities of the personnel recovery triad together to successfully complete rescue missions and maintain proficiency.
“The three branches of the (personnel recovery) triad are the HC-130J, HH-60 and the guardian angel weapons system,” said Lt. Col. Jesse Enfield 563d Operations Support Squadron director of operations. “None of those three ever operate independently in a rescue scenario. It always takes at least two and many times all three… Tiger Rescue is an effort to bring these three weapon systems together from all different bases.
“We have guardsmen from California, as well as active duty guys from Nellis, Davis-Monthan and Moody Air Force Base coming together to train how we fight, with those we’ll fight (alongside),” added Enfield.
Enfield helped plan Tiger Rescue IV and ensured the scenarios presented to the Airmen were realistic, challenging and incorporated every piece of the triad.
“We each have different roles when we’re executing a rescue mission,” said Staff Sgt. Shelby Duncan, 55th Rescue Squadron (RQS) special missions aviator. “Seeing how each of us operate and work together is awesome because we (learn) what to expect from one another when the call comes.”
“It’s crucial to know what we need from each other and that we have a good communication plan, so the insight we’ve provided on every mission was (invaluable),” Duncan added.
One loadmaster relished the opportunity to see every part of the mission in action.
“Exercises like this are fantastic because it gives us the opportunity to practice what we’re going to do in a real-world situation,” said Airman 1st Class Jared Arroyo, 71st RQS HC-130J loadmaster. “It allows us to get the repetitions down to where they become second nature. My favorite part about the job is definitely doing airdrops out the back. Having the ramp open seeing the cargo and the jumpers fly out the back; it’s the greatest view I could ever have.”
While Arroyo enjoyed the view from the HC-130J, Capt. Mark Ross, 55th RQS HH-60G pilot, enjoyed coordinating with other pieces of the triad to accomplish the mission.
“Getting this integration training is immense because with just the helicopter (alone) there’s only so much we can do,” said Ross. “Bringing the pararescuemen with their medical and firepower capabilities as well as the (HC-130J) that can provide us with gas and establish communications with the survivor immensely improve our ability to rescue a survivor in some of the worst conditions possible.
“The biggest thing I took away from working with the pararescuemen and the C-130J is that we all have the same mission, but we all have extremely different training and capabilities that we bring into this,” Ross added.