23rd Wing deploys rescue forces for Hurricane Ike response

By Airman 1st Class Spencer Gallien 23rd Wing Public Affairs

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. (AFPN)  -- As Hurricane Ike approached the Texas coast, the 23rd Wing began moving units on Sept. 11 to pre-stage for rapid rescue relief operations.

The 23rd Wing is the only active-duty combat search and rescue wing in the Air Force. Units from the wing's two rescue groups, the 347th Rescue Group here and the 563rd RQG co-located at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., and Nellis AFB, Nev., were responsible for more than 1,700 saves during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.

From the 347th RQG, 41st Rescue Squadron HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters and 38th Rescue Squadron pararescuemen deployed to the Air National Guard Combat Readiness Training Center at Gulfport, Miss.

"The team will pre-position our assets at Gulfport and wait for the storm to pass," said 2nd Lt. Adam Tucci, an HH-60 pilot. "If our help is needed, we will be able to quickly provide rescue assistance for those affected by the hurricane."

In order to respond to those in need on both sides of the storm, HH-60's and pararescuemen from the 563rd RQG are waiting out Hurricane Ike at Laughlin AFB, Texas, near the border of Mexico. They are prepared to launch at a moment's notice in support of relief operations.

Officials from the 23rd Wing also have deployed advanced teams to Randolph AFB, Texas, in order to provide the joint command and control element essential to an operation of this size. This deployable rescue operations center can efficiently coordinate with other governmental and rescue agencies to dynamically dispatch units where they are needed the most.

"It takes an entire wing effort to prepare for this type of situation," said Lt. Col. Joel Martin, 347th Operations Support Squadron commander. "All groups worked very well together to set up an operation of this magnitude.

"As part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency effort, we will be in place to support hurricane relief efforts as needed," he added. "If we plan for the worst, all surprises will be good ones."

As the situation on the ground develops in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, the wing's rescue units will be ready for possible disaster relief efforts.

"The 23rd WG has been tasked with an awesome responsibility of providing stateside search and rescue to our fellow countrymen in need," said Col. Kenneth E. Todorov, 23rd Wing commander. "We are ready, willing and able to answer our nation's call."