129th Rescue Wing demonstrates water rescue at Fourth of July celebration

MOFFETT FEDERAL AIRFIELD, Calif. -- Air National Guardsmen from the 129th Rescue Wing participated in Lake Tahoe's fifth annual Red, White and Tahoe Blue 4th of July Celebration in Incline Village by providing a live aerial demonstration July 3, showcasing the wing's impressive rescue mission.

Utilizing the wing's MC-130P Combat Shadow fixed-wing four-engine aircraft, HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopter and "Guardian Angel" pararescuemen, guardsmen demonstrated the search and rescue a downed pilot.

"All members of all services know that if they're cut off and in need of medical aid or rescue, these Guardian Angels will be deployed to find them and bring them home," said retired Chief Master Sgt. Bob Wheeler, event coordinator and former United States Air Force pararescueman.

The scenario followed a generic situation with a pilot stranded in the water after ejecting from his fighter jet. Once his mayday call was received, rescue teams assembled to answer his distress.

The four-man pararescue team flew aboard the Combat Shadow rescue aircraft in search of the downed pilot.

Master Sgt. Klay Bendle, pararescueman and tactics noncommissioned officer assigned to the 131st Rescue Squadron, stationed in the rigid inflatable recovery boat signaled the "Guardian Angels," with a signaling device acting as the downed pilot off the coast of Incline Beach.

Once spotted, rescue crews on the Combat Shadow in contact with the simulated survivor instruct him to pop his smoke flare to authenticate him and his location.

The Combat Shadow made one last low-level observation to verify the scene before climbing to 4,000 feet above the lake to deploy the "Guardian Angel" pararescuemen.

Capt. Damon Foss, Capt. Eric Davis, 2nd Lt. Darren Pon and Staff Sgt. Mickey Chan, pararescuemen assigned to the 131st Rescue Squadron, parachuted into Lake Tahoe making their final approach to the downed pilot to provide emergency medical treatment.

While the pararescuemen are left to treat the survivor, the HH-60 is notified of their location and began its decent into the recovery site. The Pave Hawk hovered above the water while the pararescue team prepared to be hoisted out of the lake.

Once the hoist was completed, the Pave Hawk returned to the demonstration site to deploy the "Guardian Angels" during a low-and-slow maneuver allowing the pararescuemen to jump into the water while the helicopter travels at about 10 knots nearly 10 feet above the water.

The Pave Hawk returned for a final demonstration of helicopter recovery with a rope ladder. The pararescument climbed the ladder and evacuated the rescue site before returning for a final low-and-slow pass to conclude the demonstration.

"The United States is the only country with a dedicated combat rescue force," said Chief Wheeler. "By having such a force, when our men and women go into harm's way, they know all efforts will be expended to bring them home."

After completing their demonstration and returning to the Truckee Tahoe Airport, officials from the 129th RQW were contacted later that evening by members of the California Emergency Management Agency about a hiker who became lost on July 2 in the El Dorado National Forest.

With rescue aircraft and personnel already positioned, they accepted the mission and successfully rescued Lauren Ellen DeLaTorre, a 54-year-old hiker, at about 9 a.m. on July 4.

To read more about the mission visit, http://www.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123262699 or go to www.129rqw.ang.af.mil.