Leave no man behind: Joint-service search, rescue integration

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By Airman 1st Class Ryan Conroy, 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs / Published June 26, 2014


Capt. William Flynt attempts to make radio contact with aircrew searching for him during a combat search and rescue training mission, June 24, 2014, at Cellina Meduna training ground near Maniago, Italy. Pilots are taught necessary survival skills to evade capture and get recovered successfully to include movement, camouflage and signaling techniques. Flynt is a pilot with the 555th Fighter Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ryan Conroy)


Participants in a combat search and rescue training mission board a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, June 24, 2014, at Cellina Meduna training grounds near Maniago, Italy. Soldiers and Airmen worked hand in hand to ensure rescued “patients” received proper medical attention. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ryan Conroy)


Capt. William Flynt waits for a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter during a combat search and rescue training mission, June 24, 2014, at Cellina Meduna training ground near Maniago, Italy. Pilots are taught necessary survival skills to evade capture and get recovered successfully to include: movement, camouflage and signaling techniques. Flynt is a F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot with the 555th Fighter Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ryan Conroy)


A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter approaches the landing zone during a combat search and rescue training mission, June 24, 2014, at Cellina Meduna training ground near Maniago, Italy. Establishing a good relationship with other branches of the U.S. military helps mitigate risk and confusion in the event of a real-world situation requiring military intervention and assistance. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ryan Conroy)

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy (AFNS) --

Airmen and Soldiers integrated combat search and rescue capabilities during training exercises, June 23, at the Cellina Meduna training grounds near Maniago, Italy.

The training aimed to enhance interoperability between sister services, allowing Aviano Air Base, Italy, personnel an opportunity to practice potential real-world scenarios.

"Heaven forbid we have a real-world downed pilot behind enemy lines -- we don't want that to be our first experience rescuing them," said Col. Scott Price, the 31st Medical Squadron chief of flight medicine. "Nowadays, our services are more integrated than ever and it's more realistic that way. Air Force doesn't only rescue Air Force and Army doesn't only rescue Army. We work as a team and this helps streamline the process."

Establishing a good relationship with other branches of the U.S. military helps mitigate risk and confusion in the event of a real-world situation requiring military intervention and assistance, Price said.

The exercise included the AH-64 Apache and medically-equipped UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters from the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade, F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 510th Fighter Squadron, survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialists from the 31st Operations Support Squadron, and dozens of "opposing forces" on the ground.

"The Air Force and the Army have a great responsibility to ensure we have the ability to recover isolated personnel," said Tech. Sgt. Kevin Wilson, a 31st OSS SERE specialist. "The capability must be maintained so that we can ensure the safe return of our men and women if they find themselves isolated."

This is the second time the 31st FW has hosted the 12th CAB for joint training. This time, it was a more in-depth training that incorporated medical scenarios in the field and on return from a "combat environment."

An advanced medical simulator dummy was incorporated into the scenario along with one pilot from the 555th Fighter Squadron, who served as the downed pilots. An opposing ground force consisting of four vehicles and 20 personnel were involved and served as dynamic targets for the air assets to engage.

The pilot is taught all the things necessary to evade capture and get recovered successfully, to include movement, camouflage and signaling techniques. He is also taught how to operate his survival radio and other aircraft-specific survival equipment.

"Training and working closely with the (combat search and rescue) helicopter assets is an added benefit here,” Wilson said, “because they are our main source of transportation to isolated personnel. They provide an excellent training platform for us. We work congruently to help each other keep up on mandatory training requirements."

After the pilot is rescued, Soldiers and Airmen worked hand in hand to treat the "patients" to ensure proper medical attention was received. The practice ensures a seamless transition between the two services.

"SERE originally wanted to include helicopters into their monthly isolation training for a more realistic experience in the field for pilots," Price said. "We figured a lot of downed pilots are also injured and wanted to incorporate that into the scenarios. Having an injury in the field makes it reprehensibly more difficult to survive across the board, and utilizing up-to-date training such as this only increases the chances of survival in the real world."

With such an in-depth training regimen performed this quarter, there are those behind the scenes coordinating for the next iteration.

"I think we learned a lot from the 12th CAB's last visit,” said Tech. Sgt. Ashley Shows, the 31st FW plans and programs NCO in charge. “As far as how much we could expand our training capabilities for these joint exercises.This training was much more in-depth and I only see it continuing to grow. We have learned lessons every time, which we can improve on the next time. New personnel bring new ideas and the environment here at Aviano provides great training opportunities for these types of exercises."

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