Rescue warriors head downrange

Members of the 304th Rescue Squadron drive all-terrain vehicles onto a C-5 Galaxy in preparation for the unit’s largest deployment in its 60-year history, May 27, 2017, Portland, Oregon. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Schaeffer Bonner)

Members of the 304th Rescue Squadron drive all-terrain vehicles onto a C-5 Galaxy in preparation for the unit’s largest deployment in its 60-year history, May 27, 2017, Portland, Oregon. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Schaeffer Bonner)

Members of the 304th Rescue Squadron board a C-17 Globemaster III in preparation for the unit’s largest deployment in its 60-year history, May 27, 2017, Portland, Oregon. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Schaeffer Bonner)

Members of the 304th Rescue Squadron board a C-17 Globemaster III in preparation for the unit’s largest deployment in its 60-year history, May 27, 2017, Portland, Oregon. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Schaeffer Bonner)

Members of the 304th Rescue Squadron walk to a C-17 in preparation for the unit’s largest deployment in its 60-year history, May 27, 2017, Portland, Oregon. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Schaeffer Bonner)

Members of the 304th Rescue Squadron walk to a C-17 in preparation for the unit’s largest deployment in its 60-year history, May 27, 2017, Portland, Oregon. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Schaeffer Bonner)

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- This summer, Guardian Angel Airmen and support personnel from the 304th Rescue Squadron, Portland, Oregon, embarked on the largest deployment in the history of the squadron.

Their extended deployment to an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia in support of Operation Inherent Resolve is unprecedented for three reasons.

First, the 304th RQS is an Air Force Reserve unit that is geographically separated from its parent units at the 943rd Rescue Group, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, and the 920th Rescue Wing, Patrick AFB, Florida.

Maj. Casey Dierickx, 304th RQS chief of logistics, said it took a total team effort to get them out the door. The 142nd Fighter Wing, an Air National Guard unit also located at the airport in Portland, helped the reservists load cargo, while the 943rd Rescue Group gave the deployers financial assistance and conducted the out-processing line.

“Every single support element to get us out of here is critical: supply; ground radio; vehicle maintenance, dive shop; medical shop; combat arms, training shop; the unit deployment manager and admin,” Dierickx said.

Second, this is not only the largest deployment in the history of the unit, but it is the largest Air Force Reserve Command deployment to date, he said.

Guardian Angel Airmen normally deploy in small groups of 15-20 or individually, said Senior Master Sgt. Josiah Blanton, 304th RQS operations superintendent.

“Our pararescue jumpers, combat rescue officers and survival, evasion, resistance, and escape specialists may work autonomously or be integrated with joint or coalition forces, including Special Operations Forces, vertical lift, airdrop, command and control, resupply, close air support, and ground mobility assets,” he said. “On this mission; however, they will be working side-by-side with their fellow unit members from the 304th RQS.”

Thirdly, this year is the unit’s 60th anniversary; the 304th RQS was activated Nov. 16, 1957.

“We’re a proud and accomplished unit,” said Lt. Col. Jesse Peterson, 304th RQS commander. “Like other Air Force rescue squadrons, we’ve executed more than 150 combat search and rescue missions since Sept. 11, 2001, on deployments to Afghanistan, Iraq and Africa.”

In addition to combat rescue, these Pacific Northwest Citizen Airmen also assist when natural disasters strike and when emergency rescue assistance is needed in any type of terrain. In June, Citizen Airmen from the 304th RQS helped rescue a stranded climber near the summit of Mount Rainier. During the 1980s, the unit conducted more than 100 rescue missions following the eruption of Mount St. Helens in May 1980.

“These battlefield Airmen are the most highly trained recovery specialists in the world,” Peterson said. “It’s an honor to be a part of this talented and selfless organization.”