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Reservists clear path for Air Force largest rocket

by Staff Sgt. Leslie Kraushaar
920th Rescue Wing Public Affairs

11/23/2010 - CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (AFNS) -- Air Force Reserve helicopter, maintenance and life support personnel from the 920th Rescue Wing Airmen at Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., along with their mission partners from their host wing, the 45th Space Wing, supported the successful launch of a Delta IV-Heavy Launch Vehicle, the largest rocket in the Air Force's inventory, at approximately 6 p.m. (EDT) Nov. 21 here.

The mission of the 920th RQW is combat search and rescue. In addition to their wartime duty of saving lives, they support the manned and unmanned space mission.

Airmen from the 920th RQW launched an HH-60G helicopter responsible for clearing a safety zone that extends out from the launch pad in the anticipated direction of flight.

Securing the area meant not only contacting mariners who didn't get the launch-hazard advisory to stay clear for their safety, but to put their rescue expertise into action if needed.

In a worst-case scenario, the rocket would incinerate causing a debris shower, or veer off course, so the reservists scan the water for boats and ships to advise them of the hazard and if needed will employ their search and rescue skills.

The rocket carried a classified National Reconnaissance Office payload to space.

"We are proud to be a part of these missions, "said Col. Robert Dunn, the 920th RQW commander."Working side-by-side with the 45th SW, we are able to maintain and provide the safest possible launch for the public."

The 920th RQW and 45th SW Airmen work hand-in-hand to make possible every launch that takes place from here and its nearby mission partner, Kennedy Space Center. While the 920th RQW members provide search, rescue and aerial support, the 45th SW team provides weather forecasts, a network of radar, telemetry, optical and communications instrumentation to facilitate safe launches on the Eastern range.

"The mission of the 45th Space Wing is to assure access to the high frontier and to support global operations," said Eric Brian, the 45th SW chief of media relations.

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