PRTF: HKIA awarded rescue mission of the year

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  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs

Moody Airmen earned recognition at the U.S. Air Force level for the 2021-2022 Jolly Green Rescue Mission of the Year.

Moody AFB Airmen assigned to the Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA) Personnel Recovery Task Force (PRTF) along with Airmen from Nellis AFB, Nevada, and Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, were awarded the Air Rescue Association’s annual and prestigious accolade that recognizes the aircrew or individual performing the most outstanding Air Force personnel recovery mission in a given year.

The 23rd Wing’s rescue and maintenance groups contributed to the recovery, processing, and evacuation of 3,800 Americans, Afghans, and partner nation citizens. These efforts helped enable the evacuation of 124,000 people to escape Taliban rule during the fall of Kabul.

“It was a mission like none other,” said Maj. Jarod Lafaivre, 41st Rescue Squadron assistant director of operations. “The situation was so dynamic. It changed so fast, it was completely different one day to the next.”

Members of the PRTF operated in an environment of ever decreasing stability and with limited resources as the Taliban was asserting more and more control over Kabul.

“I feel like almost every day over there was uniquely crazy,” said Tech. Sgt. James Martins, 71st Rescue Generation Squadron airplane general non-commissioned officer in charge. “Everybody was doing what we could and doing jobs that we've never done before, and some of us weren't even trained to do. It was definitely a very unique thing, but I think we all put in our best effort.”

PRTF Airmen were quick to pick up any task that needed doing, regardless of whether or not it was expected of them.

“I wish I could go back and help them more,” Martins said. “That's what we all want to do. Whenever there was a request for a volunteer all of us stood up and asked, ‘do you need all of us? Because we'll all do it.’”

Airmen from the 23rd Wing provided security to the base, humanitarian aid to refugees, first aid, helped to escort vetted individuals through the chaotic gates, as well as providing airfield assessment.

“What our Airmen did was amazing,” said Lt. Col. Brian Desautels, PRTF commander. “Everything our team did was above and beyond their primary duty so that was just awesome to see.”

HKIA has even changed rescue deployment preparations at Moody following the PRTF’s return from that mission.

“I really think the expectations now have changed to account for the fact that anything can happen on rescue deployments,” Martins said. “[Since HKIA], we're training with the [820th Base Defense Group] before we roll out, getting some more experience handling our M9s and M4s, and learning different tactics.”

To win this award shows just how exceptional the PRTF’s conduct was, given how many extraordinary missions and events were happening at the time.

Master Sgt. Patrick Rash, the PRTF first sergeant, had this to say when asked what he would like to say to all the Airmen at Moody who contributed about the award:

“It was so impressive to see everybody going so far out of their element to take care of things that needed to get done – even when they weren't asked to,” Rash said. “Keep doing what you’re doing. That's what the Air Force needs, outstanding Airmen who go way above and beyond, are self-sufficient, and truly professionals. I was proud and humbled to be part of that team.”