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Moody's final HH-60G retires, begins new combat rescue era

A photo of a helicopter flying.

U.S. Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter tail No. 356 completes its final sortie at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, Sept. 29, 2021. No. 356 has served for nearly 30 years at the 41st Rescue Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Briana Beavers)

A photo of an Airman smiling.

Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Steven Colby poses for a photo in the cockpit of HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter tail No. 356 at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, Sept. 29, 2021. Colby piloted the first and final flight of tail No. 356. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Briana Beavers)

A photo of a retirement ceremony.

U.S. Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter tail No. 356 taxis into its retirement ceremony at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, Sept. 29, 2021. No. 356 was celebrated for all of its accomplishments during countless sorties, deployments and operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Briana Beavers)

A photo of Airmen presenting flags.

U.S. Air Force Airmen with the Moody Air Force Base Honor Guard present the colors during the retirement ceremony for the HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter tail No. 356 at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, Sept. 29, 2021. The ceremony honored all of the hard work of pilots, maintainers and crew who made contributions to the success of this aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Briana Beavers)

A photo of Airmen posing.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Justin Colby, 41st Rescue Squadron HH-60 pilot, left, and his father, retired Lt. Col. Steven Colby, pose for a photo at Moody Air Force Base Georgia, Sept. 29, 2021. The father-son team flew No. 356 on its last sortie before retirement. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Briana Beavers)

A photo of commander speaking.

U.S. Air Force Col. Russ Cook, 23rd Wing commander, speaks at the HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter tail No. 356 retirement ceremony at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, Sept. 29, 2021. Cook, a previous 347th Rescue Group commander and HH-60G pilot, honored the contributions that No. 356 has made to the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Briana Beavers)

A photo of Airmen in formation.

A formation of Moody Airmen present the final salute at the HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter tail. No. 356 retirement ceremony at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, Sept. 29, 2021. The primary mission of the HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter is to conduct day or night personnel recovery operations into hostile environments. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Briana Beavers)

A photo of a woman sitting.

Dr. Lucy Green, Moody Support Committee, attends the retirement ceremony for the HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter tail No. 356 at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, Sept. 29, 2021. No. 356 celebrated its final flight as part of the ceremony. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Briana Beavers)

A photo of an Airman writing.

A U.S. Air Force Airman signs his name onto the inside of HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter tail No. 356 at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, Sept. 29, 2021. Airmen from the ceremony signed their names on the inside of the aircraft as part of a tradition before it’s placed on static display in the George W. Bush Air Park. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Briana Beavers)

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --

The 41st Rescue Squadron officially retired its HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter, tail number 356, after conducting its final sortie at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, Sept. 29, 2021. 

During a ceremony celebrating nearly 30 years of service, tail No. 356 departed on a flight marking the end of an era for the “Golf” model aircraft as Moody’s rescue community makes its transition to the HH-60W Jolly Green II.  

“356 is a veteran of Iraq, Afghanistan, counterterrorism operations in the Horn of Africa, and countless search and rescue operations in the United States and around the world,” said Col. Russ Cook, 23rd Wing commander and previous 347th Rescue Group commander. “I can’t tell you how many people 356 has rescued. I can only tell you this; she brought everyone home. Americans, allies, partners — even our nation’s enemies at times. But most importantly, she brought our rescue crews home, every time.”

Originally delivered to the 41st RQS by retired Lt. Col. Steven Colby on Sept. 16, 1994, tail-356 served as a beacon of hope in the 41st RQS community. 

To shine a light on tail No. 356’s legacy with the 41st RQS, Colby piloted the helicopter on its last flight alongside his son, Maj. Justin Colby, 41st RQS HH-60 pilot.

“Having been around the mission for so long, this is my 41st year associated with Air Force rescue,” S. Colby said. “To see the evolutionary development in the community is just astounding. To see where young co-pilots and junior aircraft managers are today compared to where we were 30 years ago … it’s a testament to the way the Air Force believes in the importance of Combat Search and Rescue.”

According to maintenance records, 356 logged more than 8,000 flight hours and received the 2012 Mackay Trophy for its contribution in the Pedro 83 flight, where tail No. 356 and a formation of other HH-60G Pave Hawk’s launched in response to an urgent medical evacuation near Mazar-e-sharif, Afghanistan.  

“It’s an extreme honor to be able fly the last (Golf) here at Moody,” J. Colby said. “It’s kind of the turning of the tide and new era for combat rescue as we move into the HH-60 Whiskey. To be a representative for the new era is pretty awesome, and the fact that I get to usher in that era by flying with my dad is so cool.”

As the high-time flyer, or pilot with the most flying hours at Moody AFB on the HH-60G, Lt. Col. Thaddeus Ronnau shared the true reason for the accomplishments of the Golf model aircraft.

“The HH-60G was a great and survivable aircraft, but it was made the best rescue vehicle in the world by the rescue forces being employed with her—the crews that manned her and the maintenance that kept her flying,” Ronnau said. “But time, technology, and our adversaries’ capabilities are catching up to us, so we need to improve and mature ourselves. This rescue force of HC-130Js, HH-60Ws, and our Guardian Angel force will always be ready to ensure that someone’s worst day won’t be their last.”

The HH-60G Pave Hawk Helicopter tail No. 356 is the last aircraft of its kind to depart Moody AFB with a lasting legacy; never to be forgotten.

“Today we send aircraft 356 on to her next mission, to retire in the George W. Bush Airpark here at Moody,” Cook said, “as a monument to the aircrew and maintainers who poured their heart and soul into the mission of combat rescue … I am thankful that 356 will continue her mission, inspiring the generation of Americans who will dedicate their lives to the motto of combat rescue -- these things we do -- that others may live.”