OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- One of the largest joint Combat Search and Rescue exercises in the Pacific region, Exercise Pacific Thunder 18-1, kicked into full swing on Oct. 23, at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea (ROK).
This year Pacific Thunder is the largest it has ever been with more than 20 U.S. squadrons and nine ROK wings involved giving the 25th Fighter Squadron and the 33d and 31st Rescue Squadrons’ opportunities to train in simulated combat search and rescue missions all while working alongside their Korean counterparts.
“Pacific Thunder originally started in 2009 as a one week exercise between the 25th Fighter Squadron and the 33rd Rescue Squadron and has since grown into a PACAF level exercise,” said Capt. Travis Vayda, 25th Fighter Squadron Pacific Thunder 18-1 coordinator.
Although the annual exercise now has a vast range of units participating, it is still centered on the 25th FS and 33rd RQS.
“Combat Search and Rescue is one of the most important mission sets we have in the A-10 community because we are really the only fixed wing asset in the Air Force who trains to the CSAR mission,” said Vayda. “We are the close muscle, so essentially we are the body guards of the person on the ground and the helicopters that are rescuing them. Obviously in a CSAR, you don’t want to have another type of shoot down or anything happen.”
During the exercise, the 33rd RQS is able to directly work with A-10 Thunderbolt II pilots from the 25th FS, a conjoined training that both units typically have to simulate.
“The realism of the exercise gives us an opportunity to really see how the 25th FS operates,” said Capt. Dirk Strykowski, 33rd RQS HH-60 Pave Hawk flight lead. “Back in Kadena, we pretend as best we can to know what these guys are going to sound like on the radio, what calls they’re going to make and what kind of information they are going to provide, but being able to come up here and refresh what that’s actually going to be like is probably the biggest take away from the exercise.”
To make the exercise even more realistic, pararescuemen and SERE (survival, evasion, resistance and escape) personnel from the 31st RQS are not only participating in rescue missions, but also role playing as isolated personnel.
“The intent of this exercise is to train like you fight, and we are trying to replicate that as best we can,” said Strykowski. “We have a lot of support from our pararescue and SERE. They’re out there on the ground now pretending to be downed pilots. So every step of the way, we are making it as realistic as it can get.”
Through combined CSAR training, Exercise Pacific Thunder enhances the combat effectiveness between U.S. and Republic of Korea air forces. Exercises like Pacific Thunder ensure the region remains ready to “Fight Tonight”.