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    Combat Search and Rescue

    Combat Search and Rescue

    Photo By Senior Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo | A pararescue jumper, equipped with night vision goggles, scans the Iraqi terrain for...... read more read more

    BALAD, IRAQ

    02.27.2007

    Courtesy Story

    United States Air Forces Central     

    By Staff Sgt. Carlos Diaz
    U.S. Central Command Air Forces

    BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq – When downed, ground troops are injured, an elite corps of pararescuemen, assigned to the 64th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron at Balad Air Base, Iraq, is responsible for executing combat search and rescue missions.

    This team of highly-trained pararescuemen recently performed a rehearsal CSAR mission in support of the air assets for the Combined Forces Air Component commander.

    "Our goal is to get everyone on my team and everyone we're trying to rescue back home safe and alive," said Staff Sgt. Jon McKenzie, 64th ERQS pararescueman.

    McKenzie stressed the importance of training in his line of work.

    "We always train, train and then train some more," the Cape Cod, Mass., native said. "You can never train enough. You accomplish one mission rehearsal after another and work as a team to get the job done."

    After an intelligence briefing, the team gathered their gear and loaded it into an HH-60G. While two well-armed and equipped pararescuemen prepared their gear, the pilot, co-pilot, flight engineer and gunner performed their preflight checks on their familiar Pave Hawk for this particular CSAR rehearsal mission.

    With a pararescueman dangling from the opened side doors, the HH-60 took off carrying the team to perform its rehearsal mission in black-out night conditions.

    When pararescuemen are alerted, their mission is situational dependent, McKenzie said.

    "There are so many factors that come into play, whether it's the terrain we're landing on, the enemy we're against or the air assets. There are so many inputs on how we do our jobs and the limits to what we can do and care for," he added.

    "It's also different if the scene is secure, if there's a type of crash below versus getting shot at or diving in a canal to recover a body – there's just so many different missions we can do over here," McKenzie said.

    The first leg of the mission was uneventful. The aircrew located their site and landed. The pararescuemen exited the aircraft and the aircrew took off to perform evasive maneuvers. They monitored their coordinates and simulated having a downed aircrew member in the field.

    While in the hovering position, the aircrew simulated hoisting and rappelling. Once the aircrew member was secure, they practiced evasive maneuvers against enemy fire.

    "We're different from other rescue forces," said Tech. Sgt. William Hardin, a 64th ERQS pararescueman. "We're not an attack or assault force, but we do have the right to defend ourselves and our patients."

    McKenzie likes giving credit where credit is due.

    "I have to give my kudos to the maintainers here at the 64th (ERQS)," he said. "They bust their tails day in and day out for more than 12-hour shifts ensuring these aircraft are mission-ready. We really appreciate them."

    Penetrating hostile areas to rescue and recover survivors is an arduous and strenuous task that approximately 430 pararescuemen are trained to accomplish.

    Hardin, who's deployed from the 58th Rescue Squadron in Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., said the pipeline process begins with a two-week preparatory and 10-week indoctrination course at Lackland AFB, Texas.

    "They want to see if you have the personality for the job and the mental and physical capabilities," said Hardin, who started Pararescue School in 1999.

    The entire process takes more than two years, according to Hardin.

    McKenzie, who was one of 12 pararescuemen in his graduating class to earn the coveted maroon beret, said the attrition rate is approximately 85 percent.

    According to Hardin, pararescuemen are a jack of all trades.

    "We do all kinds of things, we dabble with different skills and we train on all these different facets," he said.

    Pararescuemen are certified scuba divers and skilled in surface water operations. They're also trained combat medics and certified emergency medical technician paramedics by the National Registry of Paramedics, Hardin added.

    McKenzie enjoys being a pararescuemen and his new role as a team leader.

    "I just love the satisfaction you get out of it," he said. "This is a high-demanding job, and no matter what the situation, somebody's coming to get them. The bottom line is that its us – the pararescuemen."

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 02.27.2007
    Date Posted: 02.27.2007 10:48
    Story ID: 9267
    Location: BALAD, IQ 

    Web Views: 319
    Downloads: 155

    PUBLIC DOMAIN