When the phone rings and lives are on the line, rescue Airmen understand that at a moment’s notice they need to be in the air and prepared to do the mission.
On Aug. 19 that call came.
Within 13 hours an HC-130J Combat King II from the 79th Rescue Squadron and a pararescue team from the 48th Rescue Squadron, both 23rd Wing geographically separated units at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. were airborne.
Two hours and more than 600 miles later, the new J-model was on scene. With fuel efficiency and longer loiter to extend the rescue team’s abilities, the J-model allowed the crew to provide medical support on board a Greek shipping vessel, and air refueling to two HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters from Moffett Federal Airfield, California.
“Usually the (California Air National Guard) is closest, so they typically get the missions, but the issue with this one was they realized they only had one aircraft available to pass (fuel) to the helicopters and that was not going to be sufficient,” said Maj. Scott Williams, 79th RQS director of operations. “It’s a good mission for us to get out there and be able to do especially because it was short notice. It’s about saving lives and that’s what our guys are ready to do every day.”
While saving lives is what the rescue community prepares for every day, the capabilities of the newer HC-130J model helped make this feat possible.
“It’s a pretty similar aircraft (to the MC-130 Combat Shadow), but we burn fuel a little bit more efficiently than they do, especially at lower altitudes,” said Capt. Douglas Parrish, a 79th RQS HC-130J pilot. “After taking off from Moffett, when we showed up (the MC-130) didn’t really have much else to give as far as fuel goes and we had about five hours of playtime to hang out with those guys and still give them the gas that they required. So there is pretty much a difference of five hours in capabilities.”
The J-model extends the range of the rescue community’s already unique capabilities and proven response times.
“From notification to being airborne, it took about 13 1/2 hours and then it took us another two-hour flight to get there,” Williams said. “If we’re deployed and on alert we can be in the air in 30 minutes, but in a civil combat search and rescue scenario like this, this is a pretty good response (time).”
The response time, coupled with the new capabilities brought by the HC-130J, ultimately credited the rescue community with another life saved.
“(This mission was) an absolute 100 percent success,” Williams added. “We were able to insert the (pararescue team), hoist the patient off the ship and get him to the higher level of medical care that he needed. We’re always ready to go out there and do the job of rescuing and saving lives.”