Support: Air Force Rescue Teams Go Mainstream


April 27, 2006: More reliable, and effective warplanes, has resulted in very low losses. That has left the U.S. Air Force combat rescue teams without work. No problem. The greater use of Special Forces and commandoes, especially in Afghanistan, gave the rescue teams plenty to do. As a result, over 90 percent of the rescue operations didn't involve downed aircraft or helicopters. But there were often hairy operations, with wounded guys on the ground, under fire, and in need of extraction. This is what the air force rescue teams are expert at dealing with. Actually, most of the rescue team missions involve regular troops who are in a tight spot and need of quick assistance. In Iraq, there are usually ground forces nearby to rush in, clear out the bad guys, and make it safer for a medical evacuation helicopter to land. 


Until recently, the rescue teams belonged to SOCOM (Special Operations Command), but now they are going back to the regular forces, as that's where they are needed the most. While Special Forces sends out a lot of small patrols, these fellows are expert at not being seen. Soldiers and marines stage patrols that are meant to be seen, and are often hit. In the wide open spaces of Afghanistan, help is usually far away. If you need to get casualties out quickly, while the battle is still going on, the air force rescue teams are the best solution, especially if it looks like the regular medical evacuation helicopters would just be a lot of target practice for the bad guys.


The air force can't reduce their rescue force, as they have to maintain a minimum number of teams in each region where there are American forces, in order to be effective. But with few warplanes going down, the rescue teams need something to do, and they are eager to do it for anyone in a tight spot. But, like firemen, even with the extra work, most teams rarely do more than a few missions a week. This leaves time for training, rehearsal, and maintenance of equipment.