US, French forces test joint rescue proficiency
GRAND BARA DESERT, Djibouti -- Airmen from the 82nd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron and Soldiers from 2nd Battalion 138th Field Artillery Regiment secure the perimeter during a joint personnel recovery exercise Jan. 16 in the Grand Bara Desert, Djibouti. The exercise included two synchronized rescues - one on land and one at sea - and involved Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines from Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa as well as members of the French Foreign Legion. The exercise helped enhance joint and coalition interoperability and underscored the importance of personnel recovery in the Horn of Africa. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sergeant Joseph McKee)
Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa conducted a joint training exercise with French forces during which two simulated aircraft crashes prompted rescue efforts both on land and sea in Djibouti Jan. 16, 2013.
The exercise was one of many periodic training opportunities accomplished throughout the year to maintain proficiency and improve the personnel recovery capability here. Their objective: dispatch rescue parties in a timely and efficient manner after receiving the distress call.
Two Marine CH-53E Super Stallion crews from Marine Heavy Helicopter 464 Detachment A and a U.S. Air Force HC-130 from the 81st Expeditionary Rescue Squadron here took flight, all of them well within their reaction time, according to U.S. Air Force Capt. John Scoggins, Personnel Recovery Coordination Center Director, deployed from Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.
"Rescue exercises here have so many moving parts and are a challenge to coordinate," Scoggins explained. "Multiple countries, embassies, military services and others must coordinate as one to successfully accomplish the mission. It's also important to ensure non-participating agencies are aware of the exercise to avoid people becoming falsely alarmed. This event took more than three months to coordinate," the Atlanta native said.
Not only did everyone work well together,the joint PR team exceeded the standard for readiness capability, according to Scoggins.
One simulated crash scenario necessitated recovery of two survivors in the Gulf of Aden, approximately five miles off the coast of Djibouti. French forces, flying their Puma helicopter, headed recovery of the first water survivor. The second survivor was recovered by pararescuemen, or PJs, from CJTF-HOA's 82nd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron who jumped from the HC-130 with a U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal platoon boat. The survivor received medical treatment aboard the boat before being evacuated.
"It was good to see the PJs exercise their mobility options," said U.S. Navy Lieutenant Andrew Giacomucci, the platoon officer in charge of CJTF-HOA EOD, deployed from Rota, Spain.
The last survivor, in the Grand Bara Desert in southern Djibouti, was extracted by PJs aboard a CH-53 while U.S. Soldiers from CJTF-HOA's 2nd Battalion, 138th Field Artillery Regiment, provided site security.
"The more we work with different people, the better overall trained that we are," said Army Sergeant Andrew Gambrel, a squad leader deployed from the Kentucky Army National Guard's 2/138th FAR.
This exercise underscored the importance of personnel recovery in CJTF-HOA, which encompasses an area roughly the size of the United States.
CJTF-HOA conducts military operations, activities and exercises to defeat violent extremist organizations and transnational threats, and to strengthen the operational and institutional capabilities of East African partner-nation militaries in order to promote security and stability within each country's borders and throughout the region.
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