Kaneohe Bay Marine Corps Base, Hawaii --
The month of April proved to be quite eventful for the California Air National Guardsmen from the 129th Rescue Wing. April began with a complex rescue mission 900 nautical miles off the coast of Mexico, and ended with the successful completion of personnel recovery training in Hawaii. Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, the 129th Rescue Wing is always ready to carry out its combat and civilian rescue mission anywhere in the world.
Training Aloha Style-
On April 21st and 22nd, nearly two weeks after the Rebel Heart Rescue
, more than 130 California Air National Guardsmen from the 129th Rescue Wing with HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters and MC-130P Combat Shadow aircraft arrived at Marine Corps Base Hawaii to participate in an extensive two week training exercise. The citizen-airmen successfully completed a full spectrum of integrated personnel recovery training missions by incorporating island and jungle base training, water objectives, and other training situations not achievable in California. The exercise maintains the wings readiness for real-world search and rescue missions, and prepares the unit for personnel recovery support for future deployments, an Air Expeditionary Force commitment.
Operationally focused training allows 129th aircrews and teams to simulate real-world scenarios in a degraded environment. The ability to use pyro and smoke, practice core jumping skills, land on different air fields, practice carrier deck landing, air dropping, and under water navigation make the Marine Corps Base Hawaii ideal and centrally located for safely demonstrating integrated personnel recovery training. The Hawaiian climate factors such as the heat, humidity, and condensation along with the exotic terrain create a realistic training environment that members of the 129th are not accustomed to at home.
"It's a ton of training which is very applicable to the real world, because when you go into theater, there's a lot of objectives going on," Said Major Michael Wagle a MC-130P Pilot with the 129th Rescue Wing.
Exercise, Exercise, Exercise-
Exercise coordinators built scenarios modeled after real-world situations, ranging from recovery of civilian personnel and patient casualties from a downed aircraft, to an improvised explosive device in a simulated mock city called an Infantry Immersion Training (ITT). Scenarios included local role players who participated as villagers, speaking in their native tongue with makeup to simulate real-world injuries.
ITT has the ability to recreate the hustle and bustle of an actual town with sound machines located in different buildings, and even smell machines that can simulate the odors from a compact urban warfare environment.
Practice Makes Perfect-
Execution of the exercise required ample preparation and training, including a Modular Amphibious Egress Trainer, an underwater escape trainer with a generic fuselage section representing specific aircraft, amphibious, cockpits and cabin emergency escape exits. The egress trainer is also known as a "dunker" that is lowered and inverted into a pool. The objective is to anchor and find a reference point to escape if an aircraft were to go down over water. A reference point is key to survival as a downed aircraft can create confusion and panic if not prepared. Participants are blind folded and go through the dunker six times to help create muscle memory. Egress certification is required every three years for long range over water flights.
The first week also included a beach landing with air support from both Lockheed P-3 Orion and Boeing C-17 Globemaster III aircraft, hoisting aircrew and Guardian Angels near a raft in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Helicopter Air to Air Refueling (HAAR), surf zone operations, and Guardian Angel insertion and extraction in a jungle environment.
The U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps were integral to the 129th Rescue Wing's success and execution of safely demonstrating integrated personnel recovery while effectively executing operations under a distributed command and control architecture in an Asia/Pacific scenario.
"Just the planning process leads to success, because you learn how to get involved with all the agencies here. It's not as simple as showing up, dropping guys out and air refueling", said Wagle. "This is obviously someone else's facility so we have to coordinate times, locations and de- conflictions from other entities that are using the same training area that we are. This [was] a joint exercise."
The primary mission of the 129th RQW is to perform its wartime mission of personnel recovery anywhere in the world. Equipped with MC-130P Combat Shadow aircraft and HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopters, the 129th RQW has performed a wide variety of civilian-personnel recovery missions, including the rescue of distressed persons aboard ships and lost or injured hikers, and disaster response. To date, the 129th RQW is credited with saving the lives of 1,007 people.