In April 1955, the 129th Rescue Wing, California Air National Guard, based at Hayward Airport, California, was activated as the 129th Air Resupply Group. 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 (TAC). 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-10s, 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. Shortly afterward, the Wing also changed aircraft and operating base. The Wing's name became the 129th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Group (ARRG), operating under the Aerohortage of facilities and in 1984 the 129 ARRG completed its programmed move to Moffett Field, California. In October 1989, the 129 ARGG was designated as the 129th Air Rescue Group (ARG). Operations began to convert from HH-3E Jolly Green Giant helicopter to the HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter. The conversion was complete in 1991.
129th Rescue Wing at Moffett Field (1991-Present)
Though the mission of search and rescue has continued, the Group has continued to reflect reorganizations within the USAF. In March 1992, the name of the 129th Air Rescue Group was shortened to simply 129th Rescue Group and in June 1992, it became part of Rescue Wing. In April 1997 Air Combat Command evaluated the 129th Rescue Wing's war capability as an overall Excellent during its Operational Readiness Inspection. Today, the 129th Rescue Wing continues its search and rescue operations on a global scale.
"That Others May Live" - Past Rescue Mission Highlights
The motto of the 129th Rescue Wing, "That Others May Live", refers to the primary mission of the Wing - to save lives. The members of the 129th have performed rescues under a variety of conditions - from rough Pacific seas to the rugged Sierra Nevada. The using its combination of HC-130 tankers and HH-60 helicopters. Many high-risk lifesaving missions involved long-range, over-water flights, air refueling of helicopters by the HC-130 aircraft, and skilled maneuvering by ships and helicopters to recover patients from the decks of these vessels.
Past State Support Missions
As an Air National Guard unit, many of the 129th's missions involved supporting the Governor's office during times of State emergencies, including earthquakes, chemical spills, fires and floods. The 129th provided aid during floods along the Yuba River in 1959 and the Eel River in 1964-1965. During record flooding in Sonoma, Sutter and Yuba counties in Northern California, 33 lives were saved in 5 days, from 18-22 February 1986. In all, 44 lives were saved in 1986, a record rescue 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. The 129th provided air transportation for State and Federal government officials to survey damage from the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and the 1991 Oakland Hills fire. The unit has also been tasked with mutual aid to state law enforcement during the 1965 Watts (Los Angeles) riots and the 1992 civil disturbance in Los Angeles.
Other Missions and Activities
In 1990, the 129th began supporting U.S. Customs in the seizure of illegal drugs, as well as illegal animal and plant products, during cargo inspections. The unit has performed a number of humanitarian missions to foreign countries. From 1989-1991, the 129th deployed to sites in South America to assist in constructing hospital and school facilities.
During Desert Shield/Storm in 1990 and 1991, the 129th deployed personnel to both overseas and stateside locations. Three pararescuemen volunteered for combat operations and teams from the 129th Medical Squadron deployed to England, Saudi Arabia and Travis AFB. Individual members of the 129th volunteered to backfill for deployed active duty members. In July 1993, 129th members deployed to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait as part of rescue force coverage for Southwest Asia.
11 September 2001 to the Present
Since September 11, 2001, Guard units across the country responded courageously and selflessly to our Nations call to oppose the aggressions of terrorism both within our Country's borders and throughout the world. Meeting this task head-on and with utmost conviction was the 129th Rescue Wing, Moffett Federal Airfield, California. This highly qualified group of dedicated "Citizen Airmen," clearly embodies the Air Force's Core Values of "Integrity first, Service before self, and Excellence in all we do." As a premier frontrunner in the Combat Search and Rescue arena, the 129th was prepared for worldwide deployment at all times, ready to move at a moments notice. Our integrity was evident in the manner we planned and executed our training, allowing us to perform our mission with precision, care, and with safety remaining paramount at all times. In the aftermath of this tragic and cowardly attack against our Nation, 129th troops have provided outstanding service to our local communities, the State of California, and the Country as a whole, sacrificing families, homes, and careers to join the fight against the War on Terrorism. At all times, we have demonstrated excellence in the manner in which we've carried out our mission, and the standards to which we hold ourselves. We have been honored to call ourselves "Guardsmen," "Patriots," and "Citizen-Soldiers," tackling every challenge handed to us decisively and with compassion, never forgetting the CSAR motto..."These Things We Do That Others May Live."
When the disastrous events of September 11th occurred, the 129th Rescue Wing was already "at the helm," having deployed earlier for Air Expeditionary Force (AEF) operations in the Persian Gulf. In theater and combat ready prior to that fateful day, the 129th assumed CSAR alert for Operation SOUTHERN WATCH in late August 2001. We provided personnel recovery capability for all coalition aircrews flying in the southern "no-fly zone." This included the area from the northern border of Kuwait to a few miles south of Baghdad. Led by Colonel Ed Lewis, deployed mission commander, and Col Wayne Albright, deployed logistics commander, and using an innovative "spare MC-130" strategy, the 129th men and women arrived in Kuwait ahead of schedule. The HH-60 aircraft were immediately unfolded, hover checked, and prepared for operations. From the first through the eleventh of September, 129th pilots, navigators, aircrews, and maintainers performed every fragged mission both safely and flawlessly.
That infamous date, September 11th, 2001, now known throughout the world as "9-11," changed not only national security levels at US military bases, including Moffett FAF, but at our overseas locations as well. Our men and women at Al Jaber continued to fly all fragged missions while defending our aircraft and equipment from any possible enemy action. While accessing base vulnerabilities, the Wing Commander at Al Jaber recognized the security forces' need for additional support to patrol the base perimeter. The 129th was asked for input and assistance and once again demonstrated our flexibility. With our unique NVG and FLIR capabilities, and using a tactic not employed since Vietnam, the 129th crews flew our HH-60s as day and night perimeter patrol gunships, greatly enhancing the base security posture. Combining these perimeter patrol missions with the tasked fragged missions, 129th aircrews accumulated a remarkable 100% effective sortie rate and a 95% aircraft mission capable rate. The deployed 129th members' performance and the performance of the other Air Force and Air National Guard units deployed to Al Jaber during this critical time in our world's history did not go unrecognized. In September 2002, the Air Force announced that the units deployed to Al Jaber during September 2001 (including the 129th deployed personnel) had earned the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Valor.
September 11th caused our mission at home to expand greatly as well. As a grieving nation came to grips with our newly exposed vulnerabilities, the Air National Guard was quick to step in and provide assistance. The members of the 129th who remained at home joined the fight. Over 100 129th Support Group personnel participated in Operation AEROSAFE, performing security duties at the Mineta San Jose Airport. These duties included ensuring security of all civilian personnel at and around the passenger gates and checkpoints. Troops also patrolled the outside loading and unloading areas and the parking garages. Initiated on 8 October 2001, the operation continued until 15 May 2002, and reassuring our nation's air travelers that the skies were safe for commercial air traffic.
In March 2002, the 129th was ordered to Prepare to Deploy to a classified location. Coordinating with the other active and ANG rescue units, 129th Operations and Logistics Group Commanders developed a "Lightning Plan"(U), that provided all elements necessary for a cohesive, seamless deployment to and execution of continuous CSAR missions at a bare base theater location. In August 2002, responding to a Presidential Selected Recall, 129th Operations, Logistics, Support, and Headquarters personnel deployed to Incirlik, Turkey. They flew traditional Operation Northern Watch CSAR missions, and provided both flight surgeon and medical technician health care in Incirlik and at the forward operating location. They generated aircraft and flew numerous fragged CSAR missions. The ONW "box" in Northern Iraq could not be opened, no coalition aircraft could fly missions in Northern Iraq, unless the 129th rescue forces were airborne or on strip alert. The 129th maintainers and operators generated a remarkable 100% effective mission rate, deploying MC-130s and HH-60s for every fragged sortie. The 129th also deployed an MC-130 crew and 3-man PJ team to Kuwait in continuous support of the Air Force Reserve Operation
SOUTHERN WATCH CSAR mission. While performing these combat missions, they increased their combat capabilities, improved their war-fighting skills, and refined their war-winning attitude.
When the buildup began for a possible hostile engagement in Iraq, 129th personnel remained vigilant and prepared to meet all assigned taskings. As it became apparent that hostilities with Iraq were imminent, 129th troops at Incirlik Air Base and at home station carefully orchestrated the buildup necessary to support CSAR in a "hostile" theater. In February 2003, the 129th was realigned from AEF to the CENTAF Command. When tasked, the 129th self-deployed all forces from Turkey through Cypress into Iraq and Romania for combat ops in Operation IRAQUI FREEDOM (OIF). The 129th launched its first HH-60 CSAR mission from Basur, Iraq supported by 129th MC-130s out of Romania in April 2003. During this period, the 129th was credited with its 299th, and first-ever combat mission "save;" the first ever combat rescue by an Air National Guard Rescue Wing.
The 129th Security Forces Squadron was formally and officially "flagged" as a squadron on 1 October 2001, with a dramatic increase in authorized manning, adding over 40 new positions. In the first few months of the war on terrorism, they deployed to active duty USAF bases in California, where they provided base security and force protection. These deployed "cops" served as critical augmentees for active duty Security Forces squadrons that had been heavily tasked with overseas deployments. In April 2002, a thirteen personnel Security Forces Squad deployed to Oman in support of Opreation ENDURING FREEDOM and took the lead in providing security to the 405th Expeditionary Wing. They integrated seamlessly with the host country security forces, patrolling the base and its perimeter, as well as the surrounding terrain. Their efforts eliminated a potentially serious threat along the Al-Qaeda highway.
On the home front, the 129th aviators and maintainers increased the total number of lives saved to a landmark 300! In 2002 they successfully deployed on a short-notice SAR and saved the lives of two seamen. Working in conjunction with the Coast guard they rescued a sailor with acute appendicitis from a ship off the California Coast. They saved the second seaman while on a regular rotation to Keflavik Iceland. While preparing to redeploy to Moffett, the MC-130 crew was asked if they could support a rescue. Always ready to execute, they launched and quickly joined the search for an eighteen-year old fisherman lost at sea. The 129th crew spotted the fisherman and remained overhead in their mission command role coordinating his rescue. In March 2003, the 129th saved the lives of three people on the Standenham, a Dutch cruise liner that was 800 miles off the California coast. One had a heart attack; one had congestive heart failure and one an aortic aneurysm. With many crewmembers and aircraft deployed to OIF, the 129th needed assistance. AETC provided a Kirtland based HC-130 and crew to augment the 129th's MC-130 and two HH-60s. After an incremental launch, the four aircraft rendezvoused 200 miles off the California coast and proceeded to the Standenham's position. The remainder of the mission consisted of four air refuelings enroute to the ship, multiple hoists while hovering over the ship's foredeck, four air refuelings during the egress, and HH-60 landings at the Stanford University soccer field where the 3 patients were transferred to waiting ambulances and transported to the Stanford University Hospital ER. The mission was a complete success, and all patients responded well to treatment.
The 129th also improved the prospects that many young Californians will grow up to live productive drug free lives. They flew 25 state drug demand reduction missions onto local school grounds, where using the HH-60 as a "visual aid" they spoke to thousands of students and hundreds of teachers about the benefits of "staying in school, avoiding violence, and staying off drugs." These missions may be the Wing's single greatest contribution to California's "at risk" youngsters.
The professionalism and dedication of the 129th Rescue Wing personnel has not gone unrecognized. The Wing received the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Valor for its contributions in Operation SOUTHERN WATCH in 2001, the Air Force Association Outstanding Air National Guard Flying Unit Award for 2001, and the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for 2002. The Wing Recruiting Office Supervisor, was the Outstanding NCO of the year for the State of California 2001. , Deputy Commander/Operations Officer of the 129th Security Forces Squadron, was the Outstanding Company Grade Officer of the Year for the State of California in 2002. Public Health Specialist for the 129th Medical Squadron, was the Outstanding NCO of the year for the State of California 2002. 129th Rescue Squadron Intelligence Specialist, deployed to Turkey and earned the 12th Air Force Outstanding Air Reserve Component Intelligence Airman of the Year Award - Level II for 2002. The Sunnyvale, California Military and Veterans Affairs Commission chose SSgt Timothy Capps, 129th Medical Group, the Outstanding Military Member of the Year.
In times of war and times of peace, at home or abroad, the 129th always stands guard. Their Integrity remains unquestioned and unwavering. Their dedication to Service before Self is a matter of both Wing and personal pride. Excellence in All We Do is our only option. The 129th's dedicated and professional personnel proudly protect our nations liberties, and they willingly risk their lives for the safety of others. America's citizens can be certain that no matter how difficult the mission, the 129th Rescue Wing will be there...."These Things We Do That Others May Live."