“You’ve got 14 minutes left to say goodbye to your family,” a voice calls out. “If you don’t have any one here you can go inside.”
The words hang in the hot and arid afternoon.
Days earlier, the 306th Rescue Squadron came together to say goodbye to this team headed out for deployment. The time for ceremonial goodbyes has been completed. These are the last few minutes before these Airmen leave Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.
There are several civilian-clothed family members and friends, but it’s mostly a sea of military personnel.
The luggage and professional gear has been palletized, categorized and is awaiting the C-17 Globemaster III that will haul these combat search and rescue professionals and all accompanying gear to their deployed location.
“We’ve been asked to keep our readiness up, 24/7,” said Maj. Brent McCall, 306th RQS commander. “Four months before we deploy, we make sure our guys are proficient and ready to go. We work the less common but most difficult mission sets before we step out the door.”
The 306th RQS is deploying a whole team to support this rescue mission to include a multitude of Air Force specialties: pararescue, communications, vehicle maintainers, combat arms, aviation resource management, Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape specialists, Air Flight Equipment, a flight doctor and an independent duty medical technician.
“We are just like any other rescue squadron; active duty, Reserve or Guard” McCall said. “We train to rescue isolated personnel … anytime, anywhere; but we do it with combat-ready citizen Airmen.
“We like to hit all our core tasks such as medical skills work, technical rescue, weapons employment, extrication, as well as air and maritime operations,” said Senior Master Sgt. Luke Naughton, 306th RQS operations superintendent. “If you’re looking to come into the military, the rescue mission is definitely the way to go.”
To reach their goal of a successful mission, RQS must rely on others.
“We couldn’t do our job without combat mission support,” McCall said. “We put a lot of trust in those Airmen and, in turn, they make the mission happen for us. That’s one thing we never want to overlook.”
The CSAR mission comprises a team of very skilled men and women, all supporting the same goal. Each has their role and responsibility in fulfilling this mission. Their motto is “These things we do that others may live.”
“Our support team ran through an entire spin-up as well,” McCall said. “To get them ready to go to do any type of mission, whether it involves vehicle convoy operations, small unit tactics, shooting, handling radios, anything from mounted to dismounted operations.”
They perform all this training in-house using their own organic resources.
“We’ve had great support from our leadership and great monetary backup for mission essential training at this level,” Naughton said.
“We pride ourselves in the Reserve on doing everything that the active duty can do with a cheaper price-tag,” McCall said.
“The pararescuemen are always training,” McCall said, “whether it’s on the mountain doing high-angle training or in the ocean doing maritime ops. We even had to find some snow and ice to do some avalanche recovery rescue.”
Not all of their deployments deal with all environments but they never know where they’re going to end up, so they prepare for everything.
For the rescue community, deployment is bittersweet. It’s exciting to finally go out and execute real-world missions, utilizing all the training they have acquired, but thoughtful of the loved ones they leave behind.
“You got three minutes left,” the voice calls out.
A father carries his toddler back to the car and buckles his daughter into her car seat. A few more moments of quiet, familial normalcy. A warm embrace to his wife and one more kiss. Dad quickly composes himself and walks back to the passenger terminal, adjusting his maroon beret, a symbol of his elite career field.