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129th Rescue Wing [129th RQW]

In April 1955 the 129th Rescue Wing, California Air National Guard, was activated as the 129th Air Resupply Group and was based at Hayward Airport, California. The unit's mission was airlift of personnel and material using C-46 aircraft. Later that year, the Group was transferred from U.S. Continental Air Command to U.S. Tactical Air Command (TAC). Although the mission remained the same, the 129th underwent three name changes and several aircraft conversions between its initial activation and April 1975. The mission was unchanged even after the name was changed to Troop Carrier Group. Upon the arrival of the SA-16 Albatross seaplane, the Wing was redesignated the 129th Air Commando Group. The 129th later acquired the C-119 Flying Boxcars and its named changed to Special Operations Group. During this period the Wing also utilized small observation planes (U-10s, U-6s and U-3s) as ancillary aircraft.

In April 1975, the 129th received a new mission, designation, and Air Force Command. Shortly afterward, the Wing also changed aircraft and operating base. The Wing's name became the 129th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Group (ARRG), operating under the Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Service of Military Airlift Command (MAC). The flying mission was changed to combat and civilian rescue, using HC-130 Hercules and HH-3E Jolly Green Giant helicopters. With its expanded mission and roles, the 129th faced an acute shortage of facilities, and in 1984 the 129 ARRG completed its programmed move to Moffett Field, California. In October 1989, the 129 ARGG was designated as the 129th Air Rescue Group (ARG). Operations began to convert from the HH-3E Jolly Green Giant helicopter to the HH-60G Pavehawk helicopter, and were complete by 1991.

Though the mission of search and rescue has continued, the Group has continued to reflect reorganizations within the USAF. In March of 1992, the name of the 129th Air Rescue Group was shortened to simply 129th Rescue Group and in June of 1992 it became part of the new Air Mobility Command. In February of 1993, the 129th Rescue Wing was transferred to Air Combat Command to reflect the Air Force-wide reorganization of Search and Rescue Forces. On October 1, 1995 the 129th Rescue Group was redesignated as the 129th Rescue Wing. In April 1997 Air Combat Command evaluated the 129th Rescue Wing's war capability as an overall Excellent during its Operational Readiness Inspection.

The motto of the 129th Rescue Wing, "That Others May Live", refers to the primary mission of the Wing - to save lives. The members of the 129th have performed rescues in a wide variety of conditions - from rough Pacific seas to the rugged Sierra Nevada. The 129th also performed rescue coverage rotation missions at Keflavik, Iceland and in 1990 began support of the rescue coverage of NASA's Space Shuttle Missions. With its combination of HC-130 tankers and HH-60 helicopters, the 129th has often been tasked with the medical evacuation of patients form merchant vessels at sea. More than 40 high-risk lifesaving missions have been accomplished involving long-range, over-water flights, air refueling of helicopters by the HC-130 aircraft, and skilled maneuvering by the vessels and helicopters to achieve the recoveries of the patients form the decks of these vessels. On 3 September 1991, the 129th members recovered a sailor from the merchant ship "White Mana", which represented the Group's 200th "save".

As an Air National Guard unit, many of the 129th' mission have involved support of the Governor's office during times of State emergencies, including earthquakes, chemical spills, fires and floods. The 129th provided aid during floods along the Yuba river in 1959 and the Eel River in 1964-65. During record flooding in Sonoma, Sutter, and Yuba counties in Northern California 33 lives were saved in five days, from 18 to 22 February 1986, wit the total of 44 lives saved in 1986. This was a record rescue year for the 129th. During the aftermath of the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, the 129th established Command Post operations and was chosen to coordinate all military aircraft activities within the Bay Area. The 129th provided air transportation for Sate and Federal government officials to survey damage from the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, and the 1991 Oakland Hills fire. The unit has also been tasked with mutual aid to state law enforcement agencies. The 129th assisted in law enforcement during the 1965 Watts (Los Angeles) riots, and in the civil disturbance in Los Angeles in 1992.

In 1990, the 129th began its support of US Customs in the seizure of illegal drugs, as well as illegal animal and plan products, during cargo inspections. The 129th has performed a number of humanitarian missions to foreign countries. In 1989, the 129th deployed to Jamaica to assist in the repair of damage form Hurricane Gilbert. In 1990-191 the 129th deployed to sites in South America to assist in the construction of hospital and school facilities.

During Desert Shield/Storm in 1990 and 1991, the 129th deployed personnel to both the overseas and stateside locations. Three pararescuemen volunteered for combat operations, teams of medical personnel form the 129th Medical Squadron deployed to England, Saudi Arabia, and Travis AFB, and individual members of the 129th volunteered to backfill for deployed active duty members. In July 1993, 129th members deployed to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to perform their jobs as part of rescue force coverage for Southwest Asia.

The mission of the 129th Rescue Wing is to train and be prepared to perform its wartime mission of combat search and rescue anywhere in the world. Its personnel and aircraft locate and recover aircrew and non-aircrew personnel from both enemy-held and friendly territory and seas. The primary federal mission of the 129th is to "rapidly deploy worldwide to conduct combat search and rescue operations, over land or water, in both hostile and permissive environments." The unit also provides an emergency response capability to the State of California.

The 129th is tasked for civil search and rescue support by either the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (RCC) at Langley AFB, Virginia; the Coast Guard RCC, or the California State Office of Emergency Services.

As part of its rescue mission, the 129th RQW provides rescue support in Keflavik, Iceland. The unit began flying the Keflavik alert during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm and have flown an average of 5 missions each year since then. During Desert Shield and Desert Storm the 129th RQG deployed to Southwest Asia and had a variety of combat and support roles including pararescue, hospital support, services and transportation. In the summer of 1993, the 129th RQW personnel deployed to Southwest Asia where they flew search and rescue missions in support of Operation Southern Watch. Since that initial deployment, the Wing has consistently deployed personnel and equipment in support of Operations Northern Watch and Southern Watch.

The 129th Rescue Wing warriors had extremely productive year during 1999. Aircrews flew 2,300 hours during 1,268 sorties in support of operations worldwide. The unit also responded to state and federal emergencies, provided humanitarian relief, and completed projects to enhance mission readiness and combat effectiveness. By year s end, the Wing deployed and safely recovered 250 members overseas and reached the impressive total of 280 lives saved.

For the third year, 129th members deployed to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey to support enforcement of the no-fly zone in Iraq as a part of Operation Northern Watch. Twelve days after the last group returned from Turkey, the first group of 129th members departed for Operation Southern Watch in Kuwait. No strangers to the garden spots of Southwest Asia, the 129th joined New York's 106th Rescue Wing in response to a Presidential Selected Reserve Call-up. This rainbow Air National Guard expeditionary operation was lauded for its innovation and superb overall combat rescue mission execution.

Closer to home, civil engineering personnel deployed to hurricane- ravaged Central America to establish an operating base and to construct foundations for a permanent medical clinic and school in Honduras. This humanitarian effort was welcomed as the region slowly recovered from the included preparing wills, and answering medical and devastation of Hurricane Mitch.

The best rescue mission of the year occurred in October. Coordinated with the United States Coast Guard, it would ultimately involve three vessels, three aircraft, an ambulance, numerous crewmembers, medical personnel, maintenance specialists, and support personnel. A civilian sailor enroute from Hawaii to Southern California was near death from congestive heart failure. After requesting assistance, the patient was transferred from his sailboat to a cargo vessel and then via a Coast Guard helicopter to a cutter. Aboard the cutter and still 600 miles offshore, the patient s condition worsened and the urgency for critical medical care increased. The 129th responded by launching an HH-60 rescue helicopter and a HC-130 tanker. After an enroute air an refueling, the HH-60 met the cutter, and the patient was hoisted aboard where 129th pararescuemen treated and stabilized him. The patient was airlifted to Moffett Field then transported by ambulance to Stanford Medical Center where the admitting physician confirmed that the actions of the 129th had saved the patient s life.

Perhaps the most unique save of the year occurred when a 129th flight surgeon supporting Operation Deep Freeze in Antarctica unexpectedly performed emergency heart surgery on a permanent party physician.

Maintainers refurbished three assigned unit aircraft during the year, completing the project on time and under budget. Specialists from the 129th Rescue Wing continued to demonstrate their talent, pride, and efficiency by developing an improved night-vision-goggle compatible lighting system for the HC-130P. The new design was benchmarked and was approved for use through- out the Air Force.

Late in the year the 129th began a one-year conversion program to replace the HC-130P with the MC-130P Combat Shadow. Training is presently underway to employ and maintain the advanced MC-130P aircraft, which will bring more rescue capability into the California Air National Guard.

The Family Support program sponsored readi ness fairs where activities financial questions. The Wing also received a $14 million congressional add for construction of a much needed composite maintanance hangar. Although the year will be remembered for its many significant events and accomplishments, it was also marked with a loss of a treasured member, Lieutenant Desmond Casey, who gave his life in the line of duty as a San Jose police officer. Desmond was an extraordinary pilot and military officer who truly lived the rescue motto: These things we do that others may live. Without question, the members of the 129th Rescue Wing will continue to do a superb job in all they do and will remain the amoung the true innovators in the dynamic mission of combat rescue!

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