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HISTORY OF THE 129TH RESCUE WING|
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In April 1955, the 129th Air Resupply Group, California Air National Guard, was activated and based at Hayward Airport, Calif. The unit's mission was airlift of personnel and material using C-46 aircraft. Later that year, the group was transferred from U.S. Continental Air Command to U.S. Tactical Air Command. The 129th provided aid during floods along the Yuba River in 1959 and the Eel River in 1964-65.
Although the mission remained the same, the 129th underwent three name changes and several aircraft conversions between its initial activation and April 1975. The mission was unchanged even after the name was changed to Troop Carrier Group. Upon the arrival of the SA-16 Albatross seaplane, the Wing was redesignated the 129th Air Commando Group. The 129th later acquired C-119 Flying Boxcars and its named changed to Special Operations Group. During this period, the wing also utilized small observation planes (U-1 Os, U-6s and U-3s) as ancillary aircraft.
Changes in Mission, Aircraft and Location (1975-1991)
In April 1975, the 129th received a new mission, designation and Air Force command. The wing's name became the 129th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Group, operating under the Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Service of Military Airlift Command. The flying mission was changed to combat and civilian rescue using HC-130 Hercules cargo aircraft and HH-3E Jolly Green Giant helicopters. March 1977, the unit had its first save: an A-10 pilot who crashed during a Red Flag exercise.
With its expanded mission and roles, the 129th faced an acute shortage of facilities and in 1984 the unit completed its programmed move to Moffett Field. During the 1986 flooding in Sonoma, Sutter and Yuba counties in Northern California, 33 lives were saved in five days. A total of 44 lives were saved in 1986, a record rescue year for the 129th. During the aftermath of the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, the 129th established Command Post operations and was chosen to coordinate all military aircraft activities within the Bay Area.
In October 1989, it was designated as the 129th Air Rescue Group (ARG). Operations converted from the HH-3E Jolly Green Giant helicopter to the HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter, a change completed in 1991.
129th Rescue Wing at Moffett Field (1991-Present)
Though the mission of search and rescue continued, the group transformation reflected reorganizations within the U.S. Air Force. In March 1992, the name of the 129th Air Rescue Group was shortened to 129th Rescue Group. It became part of the new Air Mobility Command in June 1992. In February 1993, it was transferred to Air Combat Command to reflect the Air Force-wide reorganization of search and rescue forces.
On October 1, 1995, the 129th Rescue Group was redesignated as it's current name: 129th Rescue Wing. In 2003, the wing became part of Air Force Special Operations Command, but after three years on April 3, 2006, the 129th Rescue Wing returned back to Air Combat Command.
During the 9/11 attacks, wing personnel were deployed to Kuwait supporting rescue missions for Operation Southern Watch. After 9/11 numerous additional unit personnel were called to active duty in support of Operations Noble Eagle and Enduring Freedom. Wing personnel were tasked to provide security for the local airports (AEROSAFE) and additional base security.
The primary federal mission of the 129th is to "rapidly deploy worldwide to conduct combat search and rescue operations, over land or water, in both hostile and permissive environments."
The weapon systems that perform these missions are the MC-130P Combat Shadow aircraft, the HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter and the Guardian Angel pararescue system. The force multiplying capability of aerial refueling the HH-60G from the MC-130P makes these two aircraft an outstanding search and rescue team. As a result, the 129th RQW is often tasked to utilize its refueling capability to perform long-range search and rescue missions over land and/or water. While performing civilian search and rescue missions, 129th crews are honing their combat mission skills.
In August 2002, the 129th was deployed to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, for an extended tour supporting Operation Northern Watch, and soon after, the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The unit has also deployed in support of operations in Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa. While unit personnel were deployed in 2005, the 129th also aided in the rescue efforts saving 212 lives in response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. In 2009 the unit deployed to southern Afghanistan and saved more than 180 lives while operating in combat conditions. Today the 129th Rescue Wing continues its search and rescue operations on a global scale.
As an Air National Guard unit, many of the 129th's missions have involved support of the Governor's office during times of State emergencies, including earthquakes, chemical spills, fires and floods. The members of the 129th have performed rescues under a wide variety of conditions - from rough Pacific seas to the rugged Sierra Nevada.
The 129th has often been tasked with the medical evacuation of patients from merchant vessels at sea. Many high-risk lifesaving missions have been accomplished using the combination of MC-130 aircraft, the HH-60 helicopters, and highly skilled pararescuemen (PJs). Missions often involve long-range, over-water flights, air refueling of helicopters by the MC-130 aircraft, and skilled maneuvering by the vessels and helicopters to achieve the recovery of patients from the decks of these vessels.
Seamlessly transitioning from firefighting duty to rescue missions over water and across the country in 2008 displayed the unit's ability to adapt, respond, and save lives. The 129th RQW began the 2008 Northern California firefight, Operation Lightning Strike, by sending key personnel to support operations at the Joint Forces Headquarters in Sacramento. The wing also mobilized personnel to provide direct ground support to help CAL FIRE with the wildfire threat. Two HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters and aircrews were certified to perform water bucket drops on the fires for the first time in unit history. The crews dropped more than 150,000 gallons of water. In addition, crews stationed in Redding landed in rugged Northern California terrain to medevac injured firefighters.
After fighting fires in Northern California in 2008, 129th Airmen headed to the Gulf Coast to perform search and rescue operations during Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. Overall, 129th RQW members saved 34 people and 11 dogs in response to Hurricane Ike.
The 129th Rescue Wing's Counterdrug Task Force detachment, Team Hawk, utilizes the HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter, aircrew, pararescuemen and maintainers to support local law enforcement agencies in the eradication of illegal narcotics and the clean up of national forests environmentally damaged by marijuana production.
The 129th Medical Squadron provides medical support to the Wing and to three geographically separated units. At Moffett Federal Airfield the 129th Security Forces Squadron provides airfield security.