Combat search-and-rescue airmen with the U.S. Air Force Reserve 920th Rescue Wing live by the motto, “These Things We Do, That Others May Live“, and that is proving true yet again in the 2017 Hurricane season.
They just recently returned home to Patrick AFB, FL on Sep 3, after flying weeklong relief efforts in Texas to rescue stranded victims trapped by flooding from Hurricane Harvey.
But now, Hurricane Irma is raging as a powerful Category 5 storm in the Caribbean, and has its eyes set on Florida’s Atlantic coast, including Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and the 920th’s home – Patrick AFB.
Responsible for a variety of demanding missions and ready to deploy at a moment’s notice, they are trained to perform some of the most highly-specialized operations in the Air Force, and their elite Pararescuemen (better known as PJ’s) are among the most highly trained emergency trauma specialists in the U.S. military.
They deployed roughly 90 Citizen Airmen, three Pave Hawks and two HC-130Ns in support of Air Force Northern’s search and rescue mission for FEMA disaster relief efforts in Texas, and saved over 235 lives in the process.
But now, 920th crews are in the process of relocating their helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft to Orlando and Georgia, in response to Irma’s projected path and pre-position for rescue efforts if needed.
Many of the roughly 90 Citizen Airmen with the 920th who deployed to Texas for Harvey rescue efforts live in the potential path of Irma, and are preparing themselves and families for the storm, while also transitioning from Harvey relief missions to preparing for Irma relief missions in the coming days with their HH-60G “Jolly” Pave Hawk helicopters and HC-130P/N “King” refuelers.
Col. Kurt Matthews, 920th Rescue Wing commander, strongly urged all his rescue warriors to get prepared. “Now is the time to secure your home and ensure you have emergency supplies and an evacuation plan,” he said.
Matthews said his biggest priority is to protect “airmen and assets“.
Meanwhile, the 45th Space Wing has entered Hurricane Condition IV (HURCON IV), disconnecting electrical power to non-essential facilities and preparing their facilities for the arrival of the storm.
Tomorrow at 7 a.m. the 45th will officially begin full evacuation for the barrier islands.
And whatever Irma does, the 920th RQW will be ready.