STANTA TRAINING AREA, England -- Staff Sgt. Cody Cerny, 56th Rescue Squadron pararescueman, coordinates with an HH-60G Pave Hawk during War Week March 20, 2013. War Week is an annual training exercise testing the rescue squadrons capability to respond to emergency contingencies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Lausanne Morgan)
The Guardian Angels at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, have formed their own unit: the 57th Rescue Squadron.
Stood up on Feb. 18, the unit has a total of 35 pararescuemen, combat rescue officers, and survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialists, said Maj. Patrick Gruber, 57th Rescue Squadron commander.
The airmen come from the 56th Rescue Squadron, also based at Lakenheath, which will retain its maintainers and pilots for HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters, Gruber said in a Feb. Jan. 20 interview.
The airmen in the 57th Rescue Squadron are known as Guardian Angel airmen because their mission is to retrieve a downed pilots or other isolated personnel, often in the middle of a battle.
"We can't always count on the survivor that's out there — the isolated personnel — to be able to come to us, whether they are stuck in the aircraft that has crashed, whether their parachute is hung up in a tree, whether they are down at the bottom of a ravine or collapsed in a structure or floating out in the middle of the ocean. W, we have rescue specialists — specific airmen — who are trained to go into those specific environments and recover those personnel — and then medically treat them and get them out and return them with honor," Gruber said.
Dividing the 56th Rescue Squadron into two units will allow each squadron to be focus on its individual specialties, said Gruber, who was director of operations for Guardian Angel within the 56th before taking command of the new unit.
"The HH-60 squadron can really focus on organizing, training and equipping their weapon system to do everything that they need to do to be the best HH-60s out there," he said. "Similarly, Guardian Angel, led by a combat rescue officer — they are better aligned and organized, trained and equipped to train our guys better."
Creating two rescue squadrons also replicates combat conditions because Guardian Angels can go downrange separately from their rescue helicopters and planes, Gruber said.
The U.S. Air Force is pivoting from orchestrating the massive exodus of over 124,000 Afghans and Americans from a country once again under Taliban rule, to a quieter role helping even more people leave on commercial and privately organized flights.