An MC-130P Combat Shadow from the 17th Special Operations Squadron prepares to refuel HH-60G Pave Hawks from the 33rd Rescue Squadron, both stationed at Kadena Air Base, Japan, as they fly to Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, for PACIFIC THUNDER Oct. 27. PACIFIC THUNDER is an annual 10-day exercise at Osan AB to test Combat Search and Rescue tactics to prepare for real-world emergency situations. / © U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Angelique Bilog
KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Members of the 33rd Rescue Squadron are teaming up with the 25th Fighter Squadron for PACIFIC THUNDER to ensure they are ready at a moment's notice to bring our warriors home.
The annual 10-day exercise kicked off Oct. 31 and will run through Nov. 9 at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea.Four HH-60G Pave Hawks from the 33rd Rescue Squadron, Kadena Air Base, Japan, flew to Osan Air Base, Korea, to participate in the exercise alongside A-10 Thunderbolt II's from the 25th Fighter Squadron at Osan.The purpose of PAC THUNDER is to bring aircraft and aircrew of these two units together to conduct high-end combat search and rescue task force, or CSARTF, training so they are able to work hand-in-hand during deployment. This type of training prepares the units to rescue personnel stranded in highly hostile territories and environments. Separated geographically, the two units are rarely able to come together to conduct the training they need for real world missions.
Lt. Col. Pete Ortiz Jr., exercise commander for the 33rd RQS, said this training is vital to mission success. "The exercise is two-fold; it allows us to remain current on combined training requirements for high-end mission capabilities as well as provides spin-up training for our unit's upcoming deployment," he said.
The exercise consists of staging "survivors" in a training area and the 33rd RQS personnel conducting combat search and rescue tactics to find them, pick them up, and provide medical assistance if necessary. The training must be as real as possible to ensure maximum benefit to its participants. Helicopters are put on alert by maintenance personnel and stand ready to fly.Once the crews are notified they have only minutes before they are wheels up and on their way to pick up their survivor. Time wasted could mean life or death for a survivor in a real-world situation so they must practice how they play. "When a pilot goes down, it's not just us that goes and gets him, it becomes a CSARTF package and involves threat suppression from fighters, intelligence from AWACS and satellites, and a lot of people who work together to build a picture and a plan and bring that plan together to get to the survivor," said Ortiz. "As we move toward the survivor, we have to continuously adjust our plan and our routes based on changes along the way."
Ortiz said another important aspect of this training is to sync with the 33rd RQS personnel prior to deployment, because the team in this training is the same one deploying together in the near future.Capt. Joel Bier, 25th Fighter Squadron chief of weapons and project officer for PACIFIC THUNDER 2011, said this training teaches their unit how to integrate with the 33rd RQS and the rest of the CSAR and personnel recovery, or PR, chain."We don't get to exercise the CSAR and PR very often, so getting the Kadena guys up here and training is very important," he said. "The importance of the mission is really just the practice part; if you don't practice then you're rusty and if you're rusty when it's game time, then things don't go smoothly."
Bier said the training will ensure his unit is up-to-speed on training requirements for the two highest CSAR qualifications they need for the A-10's, called SANDEE's, in order to conduct CSAR missions in real-world situations. "Our role in the CSAR mission is to get the helicopter to the guy on the ground, otherwise there is no mission," Bier said. "They have their own fire capabilities on board; however, we're there primarily to provide cover support and protect them from surface-to-air threats or enemy ground movements in the vicinity as well as help them gain situational awareness and line-of-sight radio capabilities."The two units will be working hard over the next 10 days to ensure the mission objectives are met and they are prepared to conduct real-world alert CSAR missions.