Army

August 9, 2012

Pararescuemen jump in, train at Fort Huachuca

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Story and photos by Natalie Lakosil
Staff Writer

U.S. Air Force pararescueman and combat rescue officers from the 48th Rescue Squadron, based out of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson, practice a free fall jump at Fort Huachuca’s East Range on July 31. Training helps to keep the pararescumen’s skills sharp.

The 48th Rescue Squadron from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base conducted training jumps last week at Fort Huachuca’s East Range.

The 34 pararescuemen and combat rescue officers conducted two different types of jumps over a two- day period: static line and military free-fall jumps.

Staff Sgt. Sean described the jumps the group had just completed minutes after landing, “We just did a military free fall jump also known as a HALO, (high altitude, low opening) with combat equipment.

“We insert at a high altitude and deploy our canopy around 4,000 feet then glide into the target.

“We do this every few months — sometimes a little more than a few months. Just depends on what is going on,” Sean added.

The 48th Rescue Squadron provides combatant commanders with personnel and equipment to perform 24-hour worldwide personnel recovery operations. Combat rescue officer and PJ teams provide rapid response in adverse geographic and urban environments to include denied/sensitive areas and provide ground interface, survivor contact and emergency trauma care.

“The most important aspect in this training is to [give] the team the ability to land in close proximity to one another in an austere environment,” said Master Sgt. Steven.

“I have [used these skills] once out in the Atlantic Ocean, 1,500 miles off the coast of Florida. Myself and three other PJs jumped in to recover an injured Chinese fisherman,” Steven said. “I became a PJ because of the rescue aspect of it, and we get to do a lot of interesting things. We jump, we dive, we work with ropes, weapons — you name it — so it is very intriguing.”

Steven then discussed using the facilities at Fort Huachuca. “For one, the drop zone is rather large and it is in pretty close proximity to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, and with the large numbers we had today it completed everything we needed to complete.” I believe Fort Huachuca has a lot of opportunities for us in the future,” he added.

The teams function on flying status for day, night, land and water recovery operations from helicopters and fixed wing aircraft. Rescue teams deploy from the aircraft via static line and free-fall parachute, fast-rope and rappel methods.

Pararescuemen primarily function as technical recovery specialists, with emergency medical capabilities in humanitarian and combat environments. They deploy in any available manner into restricted environments to authenticate, extract, treat, stabilize and evacuate injured people.

They can also go into a situation in an enemy-evading, recovery role. PJs participate in search-and-rescue, combat search-and-rescue, recovery support for NASA and conduct other operations as appropriate.

“The most important aspect of the training, I would say, is situation awareness. You need to kind of know what is going on; you need to pay attention to details. If you’re not paying attention to everything you are doing, mistakes happen, so we prevent that by constantly checking our gear, checking our equipment, making sure you are on top of everything and doing everything by a checklist,” Sean said.

The Airmen like to conduct parachute jump training on Fort Huachuca’s drop zone.

“It is one of the closest DZs (drop zones) we can use that is a military DZ and will allow us to insert here and do all aspects of our training,” he added about practicing at Fort Huachuca.“It is a really nice drop zone. It is really easy to find and see when you are high up in the air so it’s really nice.”

A U.S. Air Force pararescueman and combat rescue officer from the 48th Rescue Squadron, based out of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson, receives help removing his parachute after completing a static line jump on July 31. The group spent three days training on Fort Huachuca, jumping into the drop zone on the East Range.

Sean became a PJ because, “I wanted the chance to be able to go in and save peoples’ lives. Get into where no one else can and be able to rescue people and protect life.”

Pararescuemen missions and roles include emergency medical treatment to save lives, search-and-rescue operations, recovery of downed aircrews and aerospace hardware, NASA space shuttle launch rescue support and special tactics in support of inter-service special operations, according to the USAF Pararescue website.

PJs must complete the six-week basic military training along with another 17 months of training at a variety of schools.

“The most important aspect is repetition. Getting it to where we can do it safely and effectively so actually get on the target together and not have some kind of mishap,” said Senior Airman John.

“I have not used this training in real life because I am one of the newest guys here in the squadron. I have only been here eight months and just missed the last deployment, but I will be ready for the next one,” John said. “We do this kind of training whenever we can. We have to do this at a minimum once every six months, bare minimum, but we like to do it more than that if we can.”

This is was John’s first time jumping in at Fort Huachuca. “The drop zone is different. I kind of like it in the fact that it is just kind of a little more remote and has a few more hazards so you really actually need to land where you are supposed to land,” he said.

“I became a PJ because it had everything I wanted. I would be put in a position to hopefully save people’s lives, and I would have the medical training as well as every other training to do it, not only that, but the challenge and definitely camaraderie,” John said.

“The best part is the camaraderie, hands down. The guys I get to work with are some of the best dudes out there. They are willing to put their lives on the line to get other people back home — those are the best friends you could ever have,” he added.

“I think the convenience of its location [Fort Huachuca] probably is most important for us, the fact that it seems to be available every single time. The only downfall is the fact that it is not a paved runway and we can’t do multiple lifts from one site,” said Staff Sgt. Andrew.

Most of the 48th RQS just returned from a deployment, Andrew said. “We are focusing on getting spun up again just in case we need to go back to work,” he said.

Andrew joined the PJs after looking at other military branches first. “I think this is the total package, the whole lifestyle, the fact that I will be saving lives instead of taking them was a definite plus, and some payment perks as well,” Andrew said.

Fort Huachuca regularly supports joint and coalition training here. Aircraft from Davis-Monthan and Luke Air Force Bases fly daily in the fort’s controlled airspace.

 




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