JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska –
A few dozen 211th Rescue Squadron Alaska Air National Guardsmen deployed at the end of September into the first week of October to an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia in support of Central Command.
The 211th RQS flies the HC-130J Combat King II aircraft, providing combat search and rescue aviation in support of the combatant commander and theater air forces.
Alaska Air National Guard Lt. Col. Dan Kelley, 211th RQS director of operations and commander of the deploying element, said his Airmen will work with pararescuemen and HH-60G Pave Hawk crews from other installations. The three capabilities compose the Air Force’s rescue triad.
“We have been working with the other squadrons for months,” Kelley said. “We conducted pre-deployment spin-up training with them and have gotten to know them quite well. These relationships and established contracts ensure our units are able to operate safely, efficiently and effectively down range. Even though we do not work together on a day-to-day basis, we are able to do exactly what we do here in Alaska in a deployed location.”
Kelley said the combined rescue triad will be responsible for personnel recovery throughout the area of operations.
“We are the dedicated fixed-wing rescue asset for Southwest Asia,” Kelley said. “We are going out there to support all of the U.S. and coalition forces executing missions in the region.”
Kelley said the aircrews comprise pilots, combat systems officers and loadmasters. The crews make up a small part of the Guardsmen deploying. The 176th Wing will also deploy aircrew flight equipment, intelligence, communications and other specialists to support the aircrews as they carry out their flying missions.
Kelley said the largest complement of people will come from the 176th Maintenance Group.
“People utilize doctors and medical teams to stay healthy, and an airplane is no different,” Kelley said. “They need maintainers and other specialists to keep them flying. We have an amazing group of maintainers going with us ranging from engine specialists, hydraulic specialists, back shop maintainers and crew chiefs.”
Kelley said Guardsmen of 176th Mission Support Group and 176th Medical Group are critical to preparing the element to deploy as well.
“It can be a complicated process to get out the door without missing critical items or training,” he said. “It really is a team effort. Our deployment specialists here in the wing and on the base make sure we get out the door efficiently with everything we need to operate down range.”
Master Sgt. Jessica Decuir, 176th Wing installation personnel readiness noncommissioned officer, said the 176th Force Support Squadron provided deploying Guardsmen with critical personnel services.
“The FSS supported the deploying Airman and their families, ensuring their pay, entitlements/benefits and personnel records were up-to-date and accurate, to ensure a smooth deployment,” she said. “The FSS has two key players in the deployment process: the Installation Personnel Readiness office and Military and Family Readiness office. The IPR role serves as a final check for all unit deployment managers’ actions, ensuring members meet deployment eligibility requirements, and are provided deployment travel orders. The Military and Family Readiness staff provides information and resource referrals for both the deploying Airmen and their dependents.”
Kelley said his Airmen processed through 176th Medical Group to ensure medical readiness.
“There are different medical requirements depending on where you’re going in the world,” he said. “Our medical group is critical in verifying this information and providing the correct care. They do the final medical clearance to ensure everyone is good to go wherever they are needed in the world.”
1st Lt. Crystal-Lynn Thiele, 176th Logistics Readiness Squadron installation deployment officer, said the 176th LRS Logistics Plans office initiated planning a year out, and the squadron completed airlift requests, submitted air load plans, and filed hazardous diplomatic clearances. During the deployment load out, the squadron completed joint inspections of the cargo, and the 176th LRS Air Transportation Function loaded aircraft with 188,520 pounds of cargo.
“This was a team effort,” Thiele said. “None of this would have been able to happen without the LRS, maintenance and operations coming together as one and working with the 732nd Air Mobility Squadron to get all cargo palletized, joint inspected, and loaded for final takeoff.”
Kelley said continued experience with the still-new HC-130J combined with focused deployment training ensure they are mission ready.
“We are better now than we have ever been,” he said. “When we deployed the last time, we only had the HC-130J under our control for a couple of years. Now we have, effectively, four going on five years of J-model training, and we have mastered operating and employing the HC-130J in a contested environment.”