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33rd RQS returns from Afghanistan

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Rey Ramon
  • 18th Wing Public Affairs
Airmen from the 33rd Rescue Squadron's B-flight recently returned home from a four-month deployment to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan supporting U.S. and coalition operations against the Taliban. 

The rough terrain of Afghanistan can be very challenging for HH- 60 Pavehawk pilots, but it becomes even more demanding when integrating with other air assets, which the team found itself doing more and more during the course of the deployment. 

Since June, the aircrews have worked increasingly with F-15s, A-10s, U-28A Pilatus's and U.S. Army AH-64 Apache helicopters in support of special operations missions. One such mission found the Jolly Greens coordinating with a variety of different aircraft as they supported the rescue of a soldier swept away by a strong current during a river crossing. 

"We had a couple of big missions where a lot more people were involved," said Capt. Tom Harley, 33rd Rescue Squadron pilot. "It's a valuable skill to work with all these different agencies." 

The pilots have trained with each air asset separately in the past through exercises and different deployments. During this deployment had the chance to work with all of them at the same time. 

"It's an eye-opener. All the training we do is a kind of piecemeal, but when you throw it together, you have that history and that working relationship you can rely on," said Captain Harley. 

The unit also had the opportunity to work closely with U.S. Army Apache helicopter units on high-risk medical evacuation missions that could not be filled by Army Medevac units, often in bad weather and at night. 

"It is not our normal mission of combat search and rescue," said Captain Harley. "But our training lends itself very well to that mission, and it's an honor to be able to help out when needed." 

Overall, the flight saved 38 people and flew more than 375 combat hours during their deployment. Each pilot logged about 95 flying hours in 90 days during their deployment in comparison to what a typical pilot might fly at home base, between 200 and 250 hours a year. 

"As much flying as we did, we really got a lot out of it," said Capt. Aaron Croft, 33rd RQS pilot. "We went to some areas higher than what we would normally land and those were very challenging. This increased our skills for future missions since we now have the experience doing that."