NEWS | Nov. 17, 2020

Airmen Learn Contested Coastal Rescue Skills

By Airman 1st Class Kaitlyn Ergish 355th Wing

The 48th and 55th Rescue Squadrons completed contested maritime training off the coast of California, Nov. 1-14, 2020.

The training included day and night operations in which they executed a series of rescue procedures over the Pacific Ocean to enhance overall rescue capabilities, not only on land but also over and in water.

“We shot moving targets towed behind a boat while flying above the ocean,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Dylan Foley, 55th RQS pilot. “Our crews applied weapons tactics to analyze how we can get better at taking opposing forces out while protecting the survivor we are picking up. We also focused on using search and signaling devices such as a radios, mirrors, flares and smokes to determine how effective they are based on different ranges and altitudes of the aircraft.”

Pararescuemen from the 48th RQS operated from the water and in the air, as well as a survival, escape, resistance and evasion personnel who simulated a survivor in an unknown location.

“Our operations began with a SERE Airman in a one-man life raft who used the different signaling devices a downed pilot would have,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Dakota Dennis, 55th RQS special missions aviator. “We then deployed pararescuemen out of our aircraft into the water and brought them back up with the survivor.”

Contested maritime training improves the readiness of the 48th and 55th RQS by equipping them with the experience they need to perform over-water rescues, despite the conditions and oppositions.

“This training gives us a realistic experience in maritime operations for when we rescue a downed pilot,” Dennis said. “It prepares us to go on real-world rescues due to the fact that we simulate opposing a real-world adversary that is moving against our isolated survivor in the water. Our mission is to eliminate that threat, pick him up and return him to friendly forces.”

Staying well-trained gives the 563rd Rescue Group, which includes the 48th and 55th RQS, the skills to respond effectively when the call for help comes.

“Our overall mission is combat search and rescue,” Foley said. “We’re supporting every other aviator in the air. They have the confidence that, should anything go wrong with their mission, we have the ability to effectively pick them up and return them to safety.”

The 563rd Rescue Group’s capabilities give a safety net pilots can rely on when they are in harm’s way.

“Ultimately the Air Force’s mission is to hold air superiority,” said Dennis. “When stuff goes wrong or a pilot gets shot down, knowing that they have dedicated units out there to come get them boosts morale and continues the mission.”

The 563rd RQG is always prepared to rescue. By completing contested maritime training, they significantly improved their skills to respond to those missions effectively, despite the adversaries, so that others may live.