When you're up a creek: 33rd Rescue Squadron

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan --

Blue. Everything is an endless monotone of blue water and a cerulean sky without a cloud to be spoken for. The salt scorches every cut and scrape without mercy while the sun tries to do the same to any exposed flesh. With no wind to pull it away, the heat beats down relentlessly. The silence is deafening until a small, rapid beating sound can be heard far away. With the noise growing louder by the second, a sigh of relief can be had. Help has arrived.

Day or night, the 33rd Rescue Squadron stands ready to execute its mission: conducting search-and-rescue operations, as well as power projection, and has been doing just that for more than 45 years.

The 33rd RQS trains constantly to ensure they’re ready for any emergency, whether it’s a simple rescue or a flight into a hazardous location.

“We’ll go two-ship into an area to rescue downed individuals,” said Capt. Nathan Franklin, 33rd RQS pilot. “For situations with elevated threats, we’ll coordinate with other branches for escorts. The goal is to be in and out before anyone knew we were there.”

The mission of a rescue squadron can have a profound effect on those that witness it firsthand. Demonstrations of their capabilities serve multiple functions for the 33rd RQS; the members are given an opportunity to train while also showing an audience exactly what they’re capable of.

“Seeing them execute was incredible,” said Gunnery Sgt. Lavonia Joseph, Headquarters and Support Battalion. “Actually witnessing their mission and hearing about the support they offer the missions of the sister services really is a great thing.”

Showing their capabilities in a controlled environment helps show individuals what they do, but witnessing the 33rd RQS during a true mission has an entirely different impact.

“I was painting fresh markers on the flight line when I saw a rescue squadron come in,” said Tech. Sgt. Allan Manuel, 18th Civil Engineer Squadron non-commissioned officer in charge of protective coating. “They landed and started bringing casualties off the aircraft. When I saw the blood from one of the guys on the fresh paint, it really drove home just how real war is. What the 33rd does, what all rescue squadrons do, is amazing.”

On land, in the water, during combat, day or night, the 33rd RQS remains ready to mobilize, deploy or employ its services to make sure U.S. and allied military members make it home safely.