Rescue crews showcase skills

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Cathleen Snow
  • 920th Rescue Wing Public Affairs
A contingent of combat rescue Airmen journeyed to Ft. Lauderdale airport by land and air to participate in the McDonald's Air and Sea Show May 6-7.
Two crews from the 301st Rescue Squadron each piloted an HH-60 Pavehawk helicopter, known as Jollys, into the show's air space midway through both days of the show.
As the Jollys buzzed through the cloudless sky, pararescumen, known as "PJs," who are specially trained in combat recovery and rescue, shimmied down ropes out the side door on cue into the cool, blue drop zone of the Atlantic Ocean. Then they climbed up the rope ladders back onto the Jolly only to exit it several more times; demonstrating insertion and extraction techniques of rescue missions.
An HC-130 crew orchestrated the next stage of the rescue when it buzzed by with both Jollys sucking fuel from each of its wing tips in a dual air refueling demonstration.
This collaboration of rescue forces demonstrated to a crowd of four million how pararescuemen and aircraft crews pull together to rescue downed Airman out of a combat situations.
"The air show is a holistic event," said Mickey Markoff, the event's founder at a press conference two days prior. And it's the official kickoff to National Military Appreciation Month where the community comes together to show their appreciation for those who keep us free and all the veterans who came before them, said Mr. Markoff.
The air show creates one of the largest recruiting efforts; assists in raising the morale and retention of Airman, Marines, Soldiers and Seaman; it helps the U.S. Military connect with the community; and it allows the five branches of the U.S. military to demonstrate their capabilities, said Mr. Markoff.
"How proud we are to be serving you," he said.
The Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs, Thomas F. Hall, praised servicemembers at the grandstand next and said, "This nation was built by blood, sweat and tears…" Addressing the Global War on Terrorism, he said, "They [terrorists] will not prevail, we will win and this nation will continue as it has been, because of you, as a nation in the free world.”
The cast of performers read like a "who's who" of the elite aviation community. From the Navy's aerial demonstration team, the "Blue Angels," to the Canadian Forces "Snowbirds," the U.S. Army's "Golden Knights" parachute demonstration team, to a simulated assault of the beach by members of the U.S. Marine Corps Amphibious Assault Group, the weekend rocked the beach with the deafening roar of the air and sea forces of the most powerful military in the world.
Spectators were treated to a four-ship fly-by of F-16s from Homestead's 93rd Fighter Squadron during the singing of the national anthem.
While some of the show's performers rehearse extensively for the entertainment factor, the 920th, however, gave spectators, "a glimpse at its actual combat search and rescue training, utilizing teamwork, said Master Sgt. Mike Gorsline who narrated the pararescue portion of the 920th Rescue Wing's demonstration.
"It brings us in closer contact with a community who may not know what our capabilities are. And it gives everyone a closer look at the pararescue career field," said Sergeant Gorsline. Which is why 920th recruiter Master Sgt. Kristi Galvin, manned the Air Force Reserve recruiting booth during the event.
"Although recruiting is a big factor for the 920th's participation in the show, educating the public on what the combat search and rescue mission is all about is another. For example, in conjunction with the rest of our military duties, we are the primary rescue source for NASA and the space shuttle launches," said Sergeant Gorsline.
"They [aircrews and pararescumen] train extensively for that mission," he added.
Lt. Col. Coy Speer, 308th Rescue Squadron Commander, said during a live Sunday morning newscast, "What we do during the air show is also a slice of what we did during Hurricane Katrina rescue operations last September." The wing is credited with more than 1,000 lives saved.
Lt. Col. Rob Ament, 301st Rescue Squadron pilot and aircraft commander during the show, said, "For those who didn't attend, the 920th brought the show together as a professional display of Air Force combat rescue."
"Much to the chagrin of professional demonstration teams like the Snowbirds and Blue Angels, many news sources and distinguished visitors claimed the 920th as the highlight. In fact, Col. McGee, former commander of the 332 Fighter Group 'Tuskegee Airmen' made it a point to approach me after the show to relay how impressed he was with the 920th's demonstration," said Colonel Ament.
Colonel Ament also praised the 920th Maintenance Squadron members, "who repaired the broken hoist in time for the show; 920th Public Affairs for the excellent portrayal in the media; the 39th Rescue Squadron for being there 'exactly' on time, and finally the 308th for making the grand entrance and 'stealing the show!'"
When the 308th pararescuemen swam up to the beach, they were approached by swarms of fans who gathered for rounds of photo opportunities with the men in fins.
Some family members who made the journey to the show also lauded the 920th as the showstopper event.
"Rob gave us a flag he flew over Iraq. We planted it on the beach and watched the show…We support his military life 150 percent," said Beverly and John Ament, the parents of Colonel Ament.
When asked how he liked the show, 15-year-old Zach Speer, son of Colonel Speer, said, "It's really cool. My dad's out there."
He added, "To me, America appreciates the military because they are out here enjoying military stuff."
When asked what his favorite portion of the show is, "It would probably be my dad," he said.