Soaring Angel prepares 129 RQW for ORI

MOFFETT FEDERAL AIRFIELD, Calif. -- The 129th Rescue Wing hosted Soaring Angel 10-2, a tactical training exercise operation, held at Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif. from Sept. 30 to Oct. 3, 2010 in preparation for their impending operational readiness inspection slated for Dec. 2011.

The objectives successfully completed for this exercise were to rapidly deploy and operate from an organic forward operating base, more than 140 miles away from their home station at Moffett Federal Airfield, to improve interoperability in areas of communication, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to be evaluated during their ORI.

The ORI is an inspection in which the Air Combat Command inspector general evaluates the combat readiness of the 129th RQW and validates their ability to execute assigned missions and tasks against a defined standard as part of ACC forces.

Soaring Angel conducted multiple live scenarios to include critical casualty care for ground personnel, terrorist camp embedment and a call for live fire, all while training and preparing for overseas contingency operations, said Lt. Col. Andrew Ferguson, the 129th Operations Group plans officer and Unit Control Center Officer for Soaring Angel.

With more than 165,000 acres of undisturbed mountains, valleys, rivers, and plains, Fort Hunter Liggett's Urban Assault course and Multipurpose Range Complex provides a realistic training environment and ideal maneuver areas for training requirements and the scenarios of Soaring Angel.

"The nice thing about the range here is that there is a control tower operator that positions their pop up and mobile targets around to simulate tanks, cars, or groups of people," said Capt. Nathan Nowaski, an HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopter pilot with the 129th Rescue Squadron and flight lead for all night missions at Soaring Angel. "It's a lot more realistic than going to a range with stationary targets."

The 129th RQW was also able to get support from a local Army National Guards Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, as a supporting asset to their Pave Hawks and C-130 Combat Shadows, to provide capabilities not normally available during training exercises, said Capt. Nowaski.

"Were a good unit in the fact that we have the resources a full rescue wing needs to be readily available," said the pilot. "We're able to put our whole package together and put on an exercise like this by ourselves and that is really good training."

Chaos is always to be expected when conducting exercises involving such in-depth scenarios and dealing with real world issues, however there is always a good lesson learned, Capt. Nowaski shared.

"We're starting to work out all of the kinks with the new Situational Awareness Data Link and Smart Multifunction Color Displays we've got," he said. "Most people aren't very proficient with them, so doing these exercises and building that proficiency will make future missions and the ORI run a lot more smoothly."

For the ORI, the 129th RQW force is going to almost double in size with more players in the exercises, to include members from the 129th Mission Support Group, and the approximate 40 army personnel assisting with the UAV and within the Rescue Control Center, Lt Col. Ferguson said.

"I think it was a really good exercise, I think it will help a lot of the inspection next year," said Colonel Ferguson. "It's sort of a mind set and attitude you bring into exercises like this to expose everyone to what's expected during an inspection."

Exercises like Soaring Angel allow wingmen to spend some time with one another and build better relationships and get to know the facilities, participation and coordination required to work as a team, Colonel Ferguson said.

With a little bit of something for everyone, Soaring Angel conducted scenarios allowing aerial gunners and flight engineers to train on their .50 caliber machine guns mounted on the Pave Hawk when rescue forces were under enemy attack while Pararescuemen with the 131st Rescue Squadron provided medical assistance to survivor players and assisted in hostage recovery scenarios.

The 129th RQS proves itself to be a fully capable rapidly employing and operating personnel recovery force from austere and minimally supported forward operating bases during homeland emergency response and overseas contingency operations.