71st Rescue Squadron [71st RQS]
The 71st Rescue Squadron and its helicopter refueling capabilities is one of the newest additions to the 347th Wing. The unit moved to Moody from Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, where it had been since 1 October 1991.
The 71st activated as the 71st Air Rescue Squadron on 14 November 1952 at Elmendorf AFB, AK. It was inactivated on 18 March 1960. The unit inactivated until it was redesignated the 71st Aerospace Air Rescue Squadron on 25 November 1969 and activated on 8 March 1970.
The unit picked up its original name of 71st Air Rescue Squadron on 1 June 1989 and inactivated again on 30 June 1991. On 1 October 1991, the squadron activated at Patrick AFB, FL, and was redesignated the 71st Rescue Squadron on 1 February 1993, when it was assigned to the 1st Operations (later Rescue) Group.
The 71 RQS' mission has dealt with search and rescue (SAR) since its constitution, and the unit has flown many types of aircraft in support of SAR. The squadron began with the SA-16 in 1952 and gained the H-5, C-54, SH-19, SC-54, and SH-21 prior to its first inactivation in 1960. From 1975 to 1991 the unit flew the HH-3 and CH-3. From 1970-1987 the unit flew the HC-130P. It began operating this aircraft again in 1991 and continues to do so since it began supporting the combat search and rescue (CSAR) mission in Southwest Asia during 1992.
The HC-130 Hercules of the 71st Rescue Squadron are aerial refuelers capable of gassing two helicopters simultaneously. Hoses controlled by the flight engineer are hydraulically reeled out of the plane's wingtips. Then it's up to the helicopter pilots to catch the nozzles with a probe that extends beyond the helo's propellor arc. The refueling operation is like siphoning a car's gas tank, with fuel flowing directly from the airplane's tanks to the helicopter. The HC-130s can loiter aloft for more than nine hours, giving helicopters ample time to find and rescue a downed pilot. The HC-130 flies twice as fast as the HH-60, so it can get there in half the time. But the HH-60 is more likely to be used because of its flexibility.
If the rescue is in a nonthreat environment and there's any kind of a road, even a dirt road, the HC-130 can land on as little as 3,000 feet of landing surface," Braley said. For instance, in an operation called a "transload," the HC-130 will land as close as possible to the rescue area while the more mobile helicopters fly on with the PJs to rescue the downed aircrew. The helicopter will bring the aircrew to the HC-130, which will evacuate them from the area.
While PJs usually "fast rope" into action out of helicopters, they parachute from the HC-130s, either free-falling or via static line. Regardless of how they arrive, the PJs will go in with hundreds of pounds of equipment and weapons. And the HC-130s will air-drop even more bundles of supplies and weapons, including all-terrain vehicles. The ATVs land on the ground, the PJs land on the ground behind them and away they go.
Over its 44-year history, the 71 RQS has earned nine Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards ranging in dates from 1956 to 1994.
The 71st Rescue Squadron deployed on February 25, 2001, as part of a regularly scheduled Aerospace Expeditionary Force rotation in support of Operation Northern Watch. The squadron was scheduled to deploy approximately 2 HC-130s and approximately 40 personnel.
The rescue mission in Southwest Asia has been quiet since the Persian Gulf War because no Operation Southern Watch pilot has ever been shot down. But if a rescue were necessary, the Moody squadrons would scramble more than just a couple helicopters. The HC-130 Hercules of the 71st Rescue Squadron are aerial refuelers capable of gassing two helicopters simultaneously. Hoses controlled by the flight engineer are hydraulically reeled out of the plane's wingtips. Then it's up to the helicopter pilots to catch the nozzles with a probe that extends beyond the helo's propellor arc. The refueling operation is like siphoning a car's gas tank, with fuel flowing directly from the airplane's tanks to the helicopter. The HC-130s can loiter aloft for more than nine hours, giving helicopters ample time to find and rescue a downed pilot.
The 71st RQS mission is to maintain a combat-ready status as the only active duty HC-130P, combat search and rescue (CSAR) squadron. The unit is responsible for rapidly mobilizing, deploying, and executing CSAR operations worldwide in support of national security interests. It also conducts low-level operations, air refueling and airdrop pararescue personnel in support of combat personnel recovery.
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