Remain 'on guard' to save lives at home and abroad

MOFFETT FEDERAL AIRFIELD, Calif. -- We've run the gamut this year...two 500 mile over-water rescue missions this summer, deployment of type II firefighters, and several firefighter saves and medevacs during the Northern California wildfires. Oh, by the way, we also dropped more than 150,000 gallons of water over the fires. 

Soon after we had a pause in the fire business, we responded to another disaster. Labor Day weekend we got the call for help from Louisiana as Hurricane Gustav was making its way towards the Gulf Coast region. 

With the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina still on our minds, more than 80 unit members swiftly deployed to Ellington Field in Houston, Texas. The 129th Rescue Wing force formed and led Joint Task Force 129. Our rescue brethren from the 106th Rescue Wing from Gabreski Airport in New York, and the 176th Wing from Kulis Air National Guard Base, Alaska, were also part of the rescue task force. Luckily Hurricane Gustav caused less damage than originally predicted after it swept through the region.

But the mission was not over because Hurricane Ike was on a path predicted to devastate Galveston, Texas. Our forces remained in Ellington and then moved out of the path of the storm to Kelly Field in San Antonio. As Ike was about to make landfall, we flew into adverse conditions and did what we do best.

This professional and highly-skilled team of citizen Airmen demonstrated our unit's life-saving capability to respond anytime, anywhere. JTF 129 picked up 48 people and 13 dogs, and a majority of these saves, 34 people and 11 dogs, were credited to 129th RQW rescuers. This is exactly why we're consistently called upon to perform rescue operations in natural disasters. 

To be able to quickly deploy, whether it be for hurricanes, fires or combat, we must maintain a high level of readiness. If we don't keep current on ancillary training, war skills training, dental examinations, and fitness tests, our community and nation lose an important life-saving capability.

Although unit combat capability is a commander responsibility, we all have a personal responsibility to be ready to deploy. Just as a chef "steels" his knife prior to using it, we must hone our skills, get all the required training, and comply with deployability directives when not performing the mission. We need to be proactive in getting prepared so we can concentrate on the mission when called. 

Our disaster response operations may have calmed down for now, but as you all know, in the rescue business we can be gone to respond to another disaster tomorrow. We also have our AEF deployments quickly approaching, so this gives further impetus for remaining 'on guard' and ready to save lives. 

Your nation, communities, families and co-workers greatly appreciate your service and dedication demonstrated when assisting your fellow citizens. Thank you for everything you do, so that others may live.