Military News

Monday, April 27, 2015

Joint Warrior: Behind the rotors

by Senior Airman Erin O'Shea
48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

4/24/2015 - ROYAL AIR FORCE LOSSIEMOUTH, Scotland -- Many miles from their duty stations, thousands of NATO military members from 14 countries gathered together for exercise Joint Warrior 15-1 in Scotland.

RAF Lakenheath's 56th and 57th Rescue Squadrons, comprised of HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters and Guardian Angel pararescuemen, are taking part in this year's exercise.

Over land, over the seas and through the skies, the rescue Airmen train as if every flight is a critical, life-or-death extraction operation. Although training at their home station is important, these rescue squadrons fully embrace the significance of training with other countries in order to fully understand how they each operate in real-world situations.

In order for the HH-60s to fly, and for the pilots and pararescue forces to operate, there are many moving hands and technical skills in maintenance that make the mission possible.

"We're here to help support the training of the 56th RQS," said Senior Airman Timothy Nicoll, 56th Helicopter Maintenance Unit assistant dedicated crew chief. "On a day-to-day basis, we usually come out, prepare the helicopters and do any modern maintenance we can to help prepare them for the day."

Many maintainers and crew chiefs, like Nicoll, arrive on-scene early in the mornings to ensure the aircraft are properly maintained and ready for daily operations.

"I feel proud that I can help contribute to the training of the aircrew so they can perform their mission; which is to help save lives," Nicoll added.

Before aircrew can board their aircraft, aircrew flight equipment, or AFE, personnel ensure flight suits and equipment work properly. The AFE team is in charge of providing all necessary aircrew equipment needed for rescue operations, like survival radios and night vision goggles.

"Our specific mission is to make sure the gear they fly with is ready to go all the time, no matter what," said Staff Sgt. Whitney Tuttle, 56th RQS AFE.

All members of the rescue team benefit from the training at Joint Warrior - whether they're in the air or on the ground.

"It's important for all of us to do these exercises because it helps us in the real-world and gives us the ability to see the difference between here and working from our home stations," Tuttle said. "The interaction builds not only a bond, but builds open communication with other nations."

While aircraft require maintenance to be ready for flight, so do the weapons they carry.  The personnel maintaining these weapons are another integral part of the rescue mission.

"Our job's important because our weapon systems provide the coverage for extracting people from a hazardous area," said Staff Sgt. Austin Gorbet, 56th HMU weapons expediter. "Without us, they couldn't enter these areas to save lives. We ensure our weapons operate efficiently so the member can be extracted."

When an aerial gunner or pilot pulls the trigger on their weapon, its accuracy depends on the hands of these weapons personnel.

"They fire a lot of ammunition downrange, and, if we aren't giving the training to the aircrew, they won't be ready for the real situation," Gorbet added. "That's what we're doing here."

Many moving parts come together to ensure the rescue rotors continue moving in full circle. With all Airmen working simultaneously in their respective specialties, the squadron continuously trains and prepares to ensure every task before them amounts to mission success.

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