by Airman 1st Class Jessica Green
129th Rescue Wing Public Affairs
4/23/2010 - DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- Angel Thunder 2010 participants successfully performed a combat search and rescue mission April 19 at the Barry M. Goldwater Range more than 140 miles northwest of Tucson, Ariz.
Two HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopters carrying teams of Pararescuemen accompanied by multiple A-10 Thunderbolt Warthogs and Army AH-64 Apache attack helicopters flew to rescue the ten Airmen acting as survivors in the Sonoran Desert.
The entire rescue operation is expected to be completed in one hour from the time of the emergency is call in to the patients return to base or a medical treatment facility.
Although Angel Thunder is full of extreme exercise scenarios, the participants are still expected to meet real-world goals.
A CSAR mission is comprised of many layers of capabilities working together to successfully rescue the isolated personnel, said the survival specialist from the 336th Training Group at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., who was on the ground instructing the survivors during the exercise, while also playing the role of a victim.
"The first layer was just aircraft coming into the area, basically making sure that there were no enemy threats on the ground that could do any damage to the recovery vehicle that was coming in," the SERE specialist said. "That's exactly what we want to see out there, that everyone is safe and that nothing happens to the survivors on the ground."
After authenticating the number of survivors and the location for where the rescue was going to take place, the SERE specialist got word through his radio that the area was clear and the rescue helicopters were coming in.
Two pararescue teams were dropped into the area where they assessed the patients on the ground, prepared them for travel and called back to the Pave Hawks for pick up.
The Warthogs provided cover during the rescue as well, firing into desert targets meant to simulate tanks south of the recovery site.
"That was like the best case scenario as far as the number of aircraft involved," said the SERE specialist. "It can be done with a lot less however if there was a need for more, they could probably add a couple more birds, we have so much air superiority right now."
However, with such a high number of patients, it's common that independent duty medical technicians would also fly along on similar missions, said Tech. Sgt. Wayne Johnson also from the 336th TRG.
"The PJ's play a really big part in personnel recovery," Sgt. Johnson said, who participated as real-world medical support during this exercise. "They're the first responders. They'll come in under fire to collect patients, give initial evaluations, stabilize the patient and bring them back to infinitive care where an IDMT will then take over."
Having a SERE specialist play the role of a survivor helps everyone involved in the recovery process understand what was done correctly or what could have been done better during the mission, said the SERE participant.
"One of our tasks, as far as SERE, is to work hand in hand with personnel recovery making sure that survivors are personally taken into account versus not thinking about them as survivors," he said. "We make sure the PJ's know exactly what to do as far as authentication and what the survivor may be expected to do when they are on the ground."
SERE specialists at Fairchild AFB, teach all aircrew that could be in harm's way the fundamentals of survival, evasion, resistance and escape. They are taught exactly what to do if they find themselves isolated on the ground.
"The simplest things are how to find shelter, food and procure water," said the SERE specialist. "The evasion side of training includes teaching ways of survival so they can't be caught."
Angel Thunder is incorporating all aspects of military, civil and political personnel recovery to ensure all participants are getting the most real-world experience and practice to simulate a comprehensive response to the recovery of military personnel in hostile environments, civilians affected by nearby combat and disaster/humanitarian relief operations.
Some of related official info, already released:
Angel Thunder 2010 kicks off
D-M to again host world's largest personnel recovery exercise