U.S. Air Force and Arizona Army National Guard units conducted joint training at a southern Arizona military training range Jan. 20.
A-10C Thunderbolt IIs from the 354th Fighter Squadron, based out of D-M, and a UH-60A Black Hawk helicopter from Detachment 1, C Company, 5-159th Air Ambulance, based out of Phoenix, conducted close air support and combat search and rescue exercises.
“Anytime we go downrange, we are working jointly with Army, Navy and Marines, so it behooves us to actually train how we fight,” said Tech. Sgt. Tony Fancher, 355th Operations Support Squadron survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialist. “By training with other services, we make sure that we have good synergy between them.”
During the training exercise, two Airmen acted as downed pilots and were dressed with simulated injuries. The downed pilots radioed their locations and conditions to A-10 pilots in the air. The downed pilots confirmed their location with signal mirrors as the A-10s flew by. The A-10 pilots then coordinated entry of the rescue helicopter.
“The A-10s provide a rescue escort, or rescort, for the helicopter or recovery vehicle,” said Fancher. “As they’re coming in, the A-10 pilots will ensure that if there’s any enemy near the helicopter, they’re going to try to suppress it before it becomes a real threat.”
Due to the terrain, the helicopter could not land, so the Army medic needed to fast-rope to the ground allowing him to assess and evaluate the downed pilot’s injuries. The first pilot extracted was able to be hoisted on his own. The second pilot was hoisted up with the medic. The A-10s provided overhead cover during the rescue.
“Joint training between Army and Air Force crews is important so we can understand each other’s procedures, abilities and limitations,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonathan Rovey, Det. 1, C Co., 5-159th Air Ambulance pilot in command. “Flying with the A-10s was exciting and not something we do every day.”