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
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
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
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
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
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.