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Kadena rescue squadron making a difference in OEF

  • Published
  • By Scott D. Hallford
  • 18th Wing Public Affairs
One Kadena-based squadron has saved hundreds of lives during a lengthy deployment and is now gearing up to extend their service. 

The 33rd Rescue Squadron has had two flights in Kandahar, Afghanistan for nearly a year filling "in-lieu-of" taskings for the U.S. Army in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. One flight will return next month and another getting is ready to take their place due to a two-month extension. 

"We're going to swap out the flights," said Lt. Col. Michael Trumpfheller, 33rd RQS commander. "B Flight's deployment was supposed to be only four months. Then it was extended to five months, then to seven months." 

B Flight has been deployed since last summer with four crews and three HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters conducting medical evacuations for the Army and other coalition forces. Deployed as the 33rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron, the Jolly Greens have saved 212 people and flown more than 750 combat hours so far this year. 

For Staff Sgt. Timothy Philpott, a 33rd RQS flight engineer, one rescue mission in particular is stuck in his memory. 

"It was a mass casualty pick up," he said. "A bomb went off the day after Ramadan ended, requiring a three-ship pick up. A CH-47 Chinook, AH-64 Apache and our Pave Hawk picked up 28 people." 

Members of the 33rd Rescue Squadron are proud and enthusiastic about their mission of saving lives, perhaps one of the reasons that Sergeant Philpott has volunteered to return to support A Flight's upcoming deployment. 

Sergeant Philpott's deployment with B Flight was his second, but the first for 1st Lt. Ryan Coates, 33rd RQS pilot. 

"The squadron did very well in preparing those of us who had not deployed before," said Lieutenant Coates. "The mission was a little different than combat search and rescue -- what we train for -- but we fell into it quickly. It was an opportunity to save lives -- to participate in the rescue of both our soldiers and other people. When you rescue a child that's been injured by an (explosion) and others in those situations, you're put in their shoes a little. It makes you think of your own relationships." 

Colonel Trumpfheller, also the deployment commander, was impressed with the attitude and the flexibility of his squadron members, despite the pace of operations and repeated extensions. 

"Even after several weeks of high operations tempo, everyone was eager, leaning forward to do the mission. It was amazing because there were certainly significant amounts of self-sacrifice, and we had numerous volunteers willing to extend. We're lucky to have the caliber of people who are willing to do that." 

The 33rd ERQS is comprised of Airmen from throughout the 18th Wing, including the 718th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 18th Munitions Squadron, and a flight surgeon and operations specialist from the 67th Fighter Squadron.