Astoria, Ore. --
The 305th Rescue Squadron led a joint-training event with the U.S. Coast Guard’s Advanced Helicopter Rescue School to conduct a five-day course with Air Force active duty, Guard and Reserve Airmen March 4 – 10, nearby Astoria, Oregon.
The “Department of Defense Week” event conducted training for rescues in seas of 15-foot waves and recover personnel from cliffs, caves and urban environments. This was the largest AHRS class to date consisting of nine pararescuemen, six flight engineers and four pilots.
Along with the 943d Rescue Group, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, participants also included the 33rd RQS and 31st RQS assigned to Kadena Air Base, Japan, the 212th RQS assigned to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Anchorage, Alaska, and the Royal Canadian Air Force Transport and Rescue Squadron Common, British Columbia.
The week-long training involved using 305th RQS HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters and instructors from the Coast Guard. This bi-annual school is traditionally specific for Coast Guardsmen but troops from other military branches have attended.
The specific conditions of this training are unique to the Coast Guard since they have primary responsibility over the coastline. Astoria provides an ideal environment for this training as there is routine poor weather conditions.
“The biggest thing we have taken away is the confidence from actually executing the techniques in these environments. I know I can pick up someone in 15-foot seas because we have already done it. It provides a lot of confidence in our ability to do what we need to do, when we show up to somebody’s worst day, said Maj. Mark Fraser, 305th RQS director of operations.
Instructors from the school are finely tuned to the environment that they experience by flying in challenging conditions for five weeks in a row, twice a year.
Instructors and students each took away some valuable experience. The Coast Guard cadre valued the Air Force’s resource management and were taking back these practices to the schoolhouse to incorporate them.
Air Force pararescuemen have similar training that they conduct during their training but according to Fraser there is no similar training for Air Force aircrew.
The 305th RQS identified that higher seas states and vertical rescue is a potential problem set for Air Force rescue. The tactics learned from this training would be utilized from a forward location where aircrew would show up to an isolated event where a survivor is in either high-sea states or on a cliff.
“The 305th RQS is pushing the bounds of what Air Force rescue is able to conduct. We are finding a way to get these advanced techniques to our personnel and improve our capability across the full-spectrum of personnel recovery. This school is the only place I’m aware of that can train with appropriate risk mitigation for this level of hands-on training,” said Fraser.
The 943d RQG is a geographically separated unit of the 920th Rescue Wing at Patrick Space Force Base, Florida, and carries out the wing’s mission to plan, lead, and conduct military rescue operations and missions to deny competitors and adversaries exploitation of isolated personnel. Air Force rescue is the only DoD entity specifically organized, trained and equipped to conduct personnel recovery operations into hostile or denied areas as a primary mission.