News: Balad PJs, CSAR train so 'that others may live'
Story by Staff Sgt. Andrea Thacker
By Staff Sgt. Andrea Thacker
U.S. Air Forces Central Public Affairs
JOINT BASE BALAD, IRAQ -- Air Force combat search and rescue assets spend countless hours training for a mission that they hope to never execute.
Since staying proficient and current on operational training is vital for Balad pararescuemen, they recently teamed with 66th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron HH-60G crews to perform a training mission.
There are U.S. and coalition assets flying throughout the theater, the six pararescuemen jumpers, or PJs deployed here from Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., are on alert 24/7 to respond to those in need.
"Our primary mission is combat search and rescue for all the Combined Forces Air Component commander's assets in Iraq," said Senior Master Sgt. Michael Fleming, 66th ERQS Guardian Angel team leader. "Training is important because its helps us stay motivated and current, so we won't be caught by surprise when something happens."
Senior Airman Corey Farr, a San Diego native, who received his PJ instructor up-grade during the training mission, stressed the importance of training in the deployed environment.
"We are constantly training and rehearsing the many adverse situations we might encounter during a rescue," said Farr. "Staying sharp on our skills and continuously training is important because our skills are perishable. Training ensures we know the proper methods of executing techniques because if done improperly, it could prove to be fatal."
During the training mission, PJs practiced alternate infiltration and exfiltration, or AIE methods, because there are times when a helicopter cannot land. These AIE methods include air-land snatching, rope laddering, hoisting, fast roping or rappelling in and out of the helicopter.
"Training and working closely with the CSAR helicopter assets is an added benefit here because they are our main source of transportation to isolated personnel," said Farr.
"They provide an excellent training platform for us. We work congruently to help each other keep up on mandatory training items."
Members of the HH-60G helicopters crew agree training with the PJs is necessary to ensure mission accomplishment.
"Training is vital and everybody's input is important," added Capt. Ryan Kay, 66th ERQS HH-60G pilot who often works with the PJs. "We are their recovery vehicle. So, we really need to make sure we work well together and everyone is on their game to ensure we accomplish the mission.
"They [PJs] are always gung ho and eager to go out and fly with us," continued Kay, a Beaumont, Calif., native. "They have a difficult job. As soon as we land or get them on the ground, their mission is to recover whoever's on the ground that we need to pick up.
Their goal is to bring back fellow service members alive, and they'll do anything to make it happen."
'That others may live" is a motto that stands true and is echoed throughout the CSAR community.
"I think we have the most noble mission in the Air Force," added Kay. "Our job is to go out there and help fellow service members. ... There is a huge sense of camaraderie among us. Really, just the idea that you're there to help your buddies out is about the most rewarding mission you can get. "
Risking their lives to save others is why they practice their skills continuously and are willing to offer up their lives to come to the aid of those in need.
"This is an honorable mission and a great force multiplier," said Fleming, a career pararescuemen with 23 years experience. "I like the feeling we give our fellow servicemembers. They know that no matter what, they will not be left behind."