Aircrew and pararescuemen with the 26th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron perform preflight inspections on medical equipment onboard an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, May 25, 2013. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Scott Saldukas)
by 1st Lt. Trevor Martin
26th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron
1/5/2014 - CAMP BASTION, Afghanistan -- The HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter aircrew of the 26th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron and Pararescuemen of the 651st Expeditionary Rescue Flight, deployed to Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, sat alert for the last time on Dec. 31, 2013.
More affectionately known by their historic call sign, PEDRO, the 26th ERQS, and the Pave Hawks they fly, have held alert 24-hours a day, maintaining constant coverage for all of the Helmand River Valley since February of 2009.
In conjunction with the transition of forces in Afghanistan, the squadron deactivated on New Year's Day 2014, transferring the remaining personnel recovery and casualty evacuation responsibilities within Regional Command Southwest to the US Army's Dustoff HH-60 Blackhawks and the Royal Air Force's Medical Emergency Response Team flying CH-47 Chinooks. The last remaining Air Force rescue element in Afghanistan will be the 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.
Over the past 59 months, Camp Bastion's Pedros have tallied more than 2,400 lives saved and more than 3,300 assists, all while never having more than four Pave Hawks at Camp Bastion.
Maj. Adams Darling served as the final of many active-duty, National Guard or Reserve commanders of the 26th ERQS.
"The Airmen of the 26th ERQS along with Guardian Angel Teams have accomplished some remarkably brave missions in support of the joint and coalition force," said Darling. "I am humbled to have had the chance to command these warriors."
Col. Ed Lengel, 651st Air Expeditionary Group Commander, echoed Darling's sentiments.
"Recovery of wounded sometimes becomes an emotional subject; but there is nothing emotional about the capabilities these Airmen brought to the battlefield," said Lengel. "They flew into highly-perilous situations and were successful bringing the wounded to medical care."
The PEDROs, known as the fastest rescue in the Helmand River Valley, will be greatly missed as they depart RC (SW) for the final time, said Darling. Regardless of their future location, the PEDROs, and all Air Force rescue, will continue to live by their motto, "These things we do...that others may live."
1/9/2014 4:40:48 PM ET The warriors of the 26th ERQs and other units across Afghanistan have bravely lived in and continually gone into harms way to save over 2400 lives. That dedication does not come free and the sacrifices made by the men and women of Air Force Rescue units as well as US and coalition partners will not be forgotten. Several generations will owe their prosperity to the legacy of the Pedros. Well done and stay strong so that others may live.
Gary Henderson, Monument CO
1/7/2014 8:39:25 AM ET I read this story with great interest and some sadness. My son Sgt. Lucas Todd Pyeatt USMC was a fatality evac from the Kajaki Dam area on 5 Feb 2011. I understand from those on patrol with him that an RAF unit was actually tasked with the evac. Nonetheless I am extremely grateful for the tough missions all coallition ARS units perform. My family and I are very thankful they do their job without hesitation most often under extreme duress. Just wanted to say thanks for being there for the our folks and glad the Pedros are coming home. Well done Scott Pyeatt CMSgt ret USAF