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Rescue Squadrons
Airmen salute at a ceremony Jan. 30 at Kandahar Airfield marking the inactivation of the 46th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron at Camp Bastion, including a detachment at KAF, and the redeployment of the 59th ERQS, which will not be replaced. The rescue mission at KAF draws to a close after 11 years, during which crews sat alert for 97,000 hours and saved nearly 1,200 lives. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Scott Saldukas)
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Rescue squadrons close chapter in southern Afghanistan

Posted 1/31/2013   Updated 2/4/2013 Email story   Print story


by Capt. Tristan Hinderliter
451st Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

1/31/2013 - KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- The 46th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron at Camp Bastion, including a detachment here, has inactivated, and the 59th ERQS here is preparing to redeploy, ending 11 years of combat rescue at KAF.

The occasion was marked by a ceremony here on Jan. 30.

"To the Airmen of the 59th ERQS - the KAF Pedros - thank you for your consummate professionalism and dedication to the mission," said Lt. Col. Andrew Smith, 59th ERQS commander. "You have aced every test and crushed every challenge. While Afghanistan's future remains to be realized, know that you have played a significant role in shaping its destiny."

Under Smith's command, the squadron conducted more than 190 combat sorties and saved 30 lives.

"The tactical, operational and strategic significance of being here, and always ready, has provided our coalition partners with added confidence," Smith said. "We depart Kandahar knowing we made a difference."

Maj. Joseph Barnard, 46th ERQS commander, said the ending of the Air Force rescue mission at KAF is a result of the improved security situation in Afghanistan.

"Because of Guardian Angel efforts in Afghanistan, many lives have been saved, even more enemies have been deterred, and the collective International Security Assistance Force has been emboldened," Barnard said. "Now, coalition troops' need for advanced access to sophisticated care under fire is lessening."

The ceremony was officiated by Col. Mike Trumpfheller, 651st Air Expeditionary Group commander, who praised the operators, HH-60 maintainers and support personnel who have made the mission possible.

"This is a noble mission, risking one's life to save another," Trumpfheller said. "It is a moral and ethical imperative that we bring our U.S. and coalition partners back from the battlefield. Though we will not have Airman at Kandahar doing this mission, rest assured that the Pedros and Guardians stand ready to save lives from other locations in this AOR, and the men and women of the 651st Air Expeditionary Group will always be ready to save lives whenever called upon."

The 26th ERQS at Camp Bastion and the 83rd ERQS at Bagram Airfield still have Pedros and Guardians on alert to support the personnel recovery mission in Afghanistan.

Air Force rescue capabilities first arrived at KAF in February 2002. Since then, KAF rescue forces have been on alert for 97,000 hours, saved nearly 1,200 lives, and evacuated nearly 1,800 additional personnel from the battlefield.

The term "Pedros" is the callsign for the HH-60 helicopter crews, which dates back to the Vietnam era where it was used for crews flying the HH-43 Huskie. The rescue teams also include pararescuemen, or PJs, who along with Combat Rescue Officers are known as "Guardian Angels," or their callsign "Guardian." Together, their mission is to provide around-the-clock personnel recovery, commonly known as combat search and rescue.

The 59th ERQS will not be replaced by another unit when it redeploys in the near future.

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