By Senior Airman Racheal E. Watson, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
/ Published September 03, 2015
U.S. Air Force Col. Michael Koscheski, 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing commander, speaks during the 1st Expeditionary Rescue Group activation and assumption of command ceremony at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Sept. 1, 2015. Koscheski spoke of the importance of the activation of the rescue squadron and the aid it will provide the theater in Operation Inherent Resolve. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Racheal E. Watson/Released)
U.S. Air Force Col. Michael Koscheski, 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing commander, passes the guidon to Col. Gregory Roberts, 1st Expeditionary Rescue Group commander, during the 1st Expeditionary Rescue Group activation and assumption of command ceremony at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Sept. 1, 2015. Roberts assumed command after serving as the Strategic Planning Process Branch, J-5 Directorate chief at headquarters U.S. Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. U.S. (Air Force photo by Senior Airman Racheal E. Watson/Released)
U.S. Air Force Col. Gregory Roberts, 1st Expeditionary Rescue Group commander, speaks during the 1st Expeditionary Rescue Group activation ceremony at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Sept. 1, 2015. Roberts shared his command vision to support efforts to degrade and defeat the Islamic State and to move ahead based on lessons learned throughout history. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Racheal E. Watson/Released)
U.S. Air Force Museum photo, probably taken in January 1945, shows Lt. Carter Harman (standing left), with ground crew, including his crew-chief/mechanic, Sgt. Jim Phelan (front row right). Lt. Frank Peterson, a veteran R-4 test pilot who performed a later epic Burma rescue mission with a YR-4B, stands beside Lt. Harman.
The helicopter was the mainstay of the post-World War II U.S. Air
Force rescue structure. Lt. Carter Harman made the first helicopter combat
rescue, in Burma behind Japanese lines April 25, 1944. First Air Commando Sgt.
Pilot Ed “Murphy” Hladovcak crash-landed his L-1 aircraft with three wounded
British soldiers on board. Pushing his YR-4 helicopter to its performance
limits, Harman made four flights to the site, making the final hasty liftoff
just as shouting soldiers burst from the jungle. He learned later the soldiers
were not Japanese, rather an allied land-rescue party.
In March 1946, the Air Rescue Service was established under the Air
Transport Command to provide rescue coverage for the continental United States
with both fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft complete with then-new “pararescue”
personnel. By late 1949, ARS aircraft covered all the world’s transport routes
as the Nation’s attention turned to Korea.
The Korean Conflict and then the Vietnam War would transform the
Air Rescue Service from a generally peacetime search and rescue organization
focused on air transport routes into a worldwide-deployable combat search and
Seventy-one years after Harman’s famous first, the 1st Expeditionary
Rescue Group activated at an undisclosed location to support the efforts of
Operation Inherent Resolve and continue the legacy of those early rescue Airmen.
Col. Michael Koscheski, 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing commander, presided
over the ceremony and is simply referred to as “Col. K” by his 1,100 Airmen who
serve with him.
“The idea of the 1st Rescue Group started out about a year ago when
Operation Inherent Resolve kicked off,” said Col. K. “We were looking at
different options and at the time the staff was working a lot of the buildup
and the planning. It became readily apparent that we needed a rescue group to
harmonize rescue initiatives across the Levant Area of Operations.”
Earlier this year, two deliberately planned hostage rescue personnel
recovery missions were carried out by U.S. Special Forces to save hostages held
by the Islamic State, also known as ISIL or Daesh. Among the captives was Muath
al-Kasasbeh, a Royal Jordanian air force pilot, who was captured by Daesh after
his fighter jet crashed in Syria. The pilot was infamously burned to death in a
cage. This event highlighted the need for ready, immediate-recovery combat
search and rescue personnel recovery forces.
U.S. and coalition forces rely on each other during tragic events
such as this to further the mission protecting the men and women fighting to
Following Col. K’s speech, the 1st ERQG guidon was uncased,
unfurled and passed to Col. Gregory Roberts, signifying the reactivation and
his assumption of command in Southwest Asia, Sept. 1, 2015.
“The men and women of the new 1st Expeditionary Rescue Group, the
26th, the 52nd and 64th Expeditionary Rescue Squadrons, will continue the Air
Force combat search and rescue legacy of vigilance, valor, altruism and
excellence,” said Roberts.
The USAF air rescue mission comes under the cognizance of the Air
Combat Command. Guardian Angel squadrons are the Air Force's human and equipment-based
weapon system consisting of pararescuemen, survival specialists and Combat Rescue
Officers. The HH-60 and HC-130 rescue squadrons cooperate to quickly infiltrate
into denied territory with pararescuemen and recover survivors or other
As of Aug. 25, 2015, the U.S. and its coalition forces have
conducted a total of 6,419 airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. Every component, no
matter the size, is an integral piece to complete the mission of degrading and
“This event, this assumption of command, is just a small testament
to that,” said Roberts. “Much bigger evidence is the thousands of protected air
crew, conducting thousands of high-risk missions over the vast swathes of Iraq
and Syria in Operation Inherent Resolve in defense of our alliance as well as
our nations’ coalition’s wills every day.”