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Success at Soaring Angel 13-1: the 129th Rescue Wing hosts joint service training

FORT HUNTER LIGGETT, Calif. -- The 129th Rescue Wing successfully completed a collaborative tactical training exercise coined Soaring Angel 13-1 here in a simulated deployed environment, Oct. 11-13.

The exercise objectives were to rapidly deploy, construct and operate from Forward Operating Base Schoonover located at Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif., which is more than 140 miles from home station at Moffett Federal Airfield.

Soaring Angel participants demonstrated the 129th RQW's federal and civil response capabilities to provide personnel recovery and casualty evacuation. The exercise also helped improve the exchange and use of information in areas of communication, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance with supporting external units.

"An exercise like this is important because it takes you out of your home station environment so you have to operate in new location in an austere tent city," said Lt. Col. Andrew Ferguson, the project officer for Soaring Angel 13-1. "It's a short term exercise in that our operation scenarios are only three days, so it's a very intense period of time."

The 129th RQW conducted multiple live scenarios during the three day exercise, to include critical casualty care for ground personnel, terrorist camp embedment, emergency aircraft landing, a call for live fire and opposition assault on aircraft, and night vision operations, all while training personnel and dealing with real-world weather obstacles.

"Just getting operational so you can brief and launch air crews within a short period of time is a critical skill to practice, so that's what we're doing," Ferguson said. "When we deploy [base support and operations are] basically already set up. In this case they're not, so that's even more of a stress for us."

Servicemembers from the California Army National Guard, New Mexico Air National Guard, and their active duty counterparts, along with other government agencies all played key roles in the success of Soaring Angel. According to Ferguson, the exercise included more than 470 troops this year, with about 320 from the 129th RQW, doubling the total from 2010.

"The collaboration between all the state agencies is one of the greatest benefits," said Mr. Aaron Fillip, the mission planning contractor for Soaring Angel 13-1. "After getting all the different communication equipment to talk to one another, everything seemed to fall into place."

Staff Sgt. Byron Estrada, a tactical infrastructure systems support specialist for Soaring Angel 13-1, spent his time working in the Rescue Operational Center as a liaison between the 129th RQW and its external supportive tactical groups. He established strong working connections with Airmen on base that he wouldn't normally have the chance to work with.

"I am grateful to have this opportunity to work with mentors and peers that have a first-rate work ethic," Estrada said "This experience has inspired me to carry the same values and set a good example for those I work with."

The 129th RQW plans to host this exercise every year depending on deployment and inspection schedules, Ferguson said.