Be it by air or water: French, US hone their capabilities

A U.S. Air Force Airman assigned to the 82nd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron jumps from a French SA-330 Puma helicopter into the Gulf of Tadjoura during air-to-water qualification training Oct. 17, 2013. The U.S. and French members conducted this operation to enhance communication and build a stronger relationship to ensure Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa members are continually ready to support military operations in East Africa. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chad Thompson) CJTF-HOA Photo A U.S. Air Force Airman assigned to the 82nd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron jumps from a French SA-330 Puma helicopter into the Gulf of Tadjoura during air-to-water qualification training Oct. 17, 2013. The U.S. and French members conducted this operation to enhance communication and build a stronger relationship to ensure Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa members are continually ready to support military operations in East Africa. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chad Thompson)
A French SA-330 Puma helicopter crew prepares to land and pick members of the 82nd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron and French military during air-to-water qualification training near Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, Oct. 17, 2013. The U.S. and French members conducted this operation to enhance communication and build a stronger relationship to ensure Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa members are continually ready to support military operations in East Africa. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chad Thompson) CJTF-HOA Photo A French SA-330 Puma helicopter crew prepares to land and pick members of the 82nd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron and French military during air-to-water qualification training near Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, Oct. 17, 2013. The U.S. and French members conducted this operation to enhance communication and build a stronger relationship to ensure Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa members are continually ready to support military operations in East Africa. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chad Thompson)
Members of the 82nd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron and French military board a French SA-330 Puma helicopter into the Gulf of Tadjoura during air-to-water qualification training near Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, Oct. 17, 2013. The U.S. and French members recently conducted this operation to enhance communication and build a stronger relationship to ensure Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa members are continually ready to support military operations in East Africa. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chad Thompson) CJTF-HOA Photo Members of the 82nd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron and French military board a French SA-330 Puma helicopter into the Gulf of Tadjoura during air-to-water qualification training near Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, Oct. 17, 2013. The U.S. and French members recently conducted this operation to enhance communication and build a stronger relationship to ensure Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa members are continually ready to support military operations in East Africa. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chad Thompson)
Members of the 82nd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron and French military board a French SA-330 Puma helicopter during air-to-water qualification training near Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, Oct. 17, 2013. The U.S. and French members conducted this operation to enhance communication and build a stronger relationship to ensure Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa members are continually ready to support military operations in East Africa to defeat violent extremist organizations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chad Thompson) CJTF-HOA Photo Members of the 82nd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron and French military board a French SA-330 Puma helicopter during air-to-water qualification training near Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, Oct. 17, 2013. The U.S. and French members conducted this operation to enhance communication and build a stronger relationship to ensure Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa members are continually ready to support military operations in East Africa to defeat violent extremist organizations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chad Thompson)

When it comes to saving a life every second counts – the faster someone can be pulled from the elements the more likely the person will survive.

No matter how much someone trains, there are no guarantees conditions will be ideal when the call comes in and that’s why the members of an elite U.S. Air Force team constantly test their abilities.

These Airmen with the 82nd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron, along with French soldiers conducted combined air-to-water qualification training on the Gulf of Tadjoura near Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, Oct. 17, 2013.

The mission was used to hone their skills, increase communications with one another and share best practices in case they ever work together during personnel recovery operations.

“It is really about being interoperable and providing as much operational flexibility as possible,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Kelly Passmore, the 449th Air Expeditionary Group commander. “While each of our forces have some truly significant capabilities, we rely on each other to provide additional capacity and a bit of redundancy to ensure mission success.”

If these two units ever work together, teamwork and cooperation will be key, Passmore added.

The training began with a safety brief and aircraft familiarization of the French SA-330 Puma, a helicopter that’s similar to the U.S. Air Force HH-60 Pave Hawk.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Kristopher Tomes, a pararescueman with the 82nd ERQS, said that the teams were doing basic water operations to familiarize themselves with the local area and French aircraft, and build a stronger relationship with the French army who are stationed here.

“We are actually flying with the French Army who is here in Djibouti – and we are just trying to get a bond with our coalition forces,” Tomes said. “The cohesion we need between countries for future (operations) is very important.”

Building this partnership with coalition forces is a big part of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa’s mission.

“There is simply no better way to build trust than to get out here and do the mission together,” Passmore said. “Now if we need to respond quickly in a crisis, we will already know how to work together.”

The 82nd ERQS provides personnel recovery and search and rescue support throughout the CJTF-HOA area of responsibility.

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