For the fifth straight year, 31st and 33rd Rescue Squadron Airmen from Kadena Air Base, Japan, have teamed up with the 25th Fighter Squadron to kick off Exercise Pacific Thunder 2012.
The two-week exercise, focused entirely on combat search and rescue operations, began Oct. 11 and is scheduled to wrap-up Oct. 25.
Last week, 31st and 33rd RQS Airmen flew from Kadena AB to Osan AB to meet up with the 25th FS, equipped with four HH-60 Pave Hawks and their crews, a team of pararescuemen, a survival, evade, resistance and escape (SERE) specialist, and all the equipment needed to conduct CSAR training.
"The reason we do (Pacific Thunder) is to practice our primary mission, which is combat search and rescue on the Korean Peninsula," said Tech. Sgt. Justin Schramm, 33rd Rescue Squadron A Flight chief, evaluator aerial gunner and squadron superintendent for the exercise. "With that, we are validating the tactics, techniques and procedures, and the ability to integrate with the 25th Fighter Squadron's A-10s and perform an actual, no kidding, rescue mission."
The exercise provides the rescue squadron Airmen with a much-needed training environment that prepares them for real-world scenarios.
Although the 25th FS and the two rescue squadrons are the main players for the exercise, there are 13 other units lending a helping hand to ensure that the exercise is successful.
Schramm said the exercise is slightly different from what they have done in the past because it includes a total force package with all the units working together to carry-out realistic scenarios from "shoot down to recovery."
"There (are) actually two aspects to this exercise," Schramm said. "Aspect number one is where we validate capabilities on a semi-daily basis here on the peninsula to actually detect and move upon a downed aircraft - whether it is U.S. or (South Korean forces).
"The other big part of it is the information flow," he continued. "Identifying that there is a downed Airmen and getting the whole picture, and then getting that information flow to the RESCORT package so we can go out and perform the pickup -- (that) is the end game of this whole exercise."
Schramm said the exercise is a great way to keep the Airmen current on combined training requirements for high-end mission capabilities, and they are using Pacific Thunder as a final training opportunity for the rescue teams before an upcoming deployment to Afghanistan.
"The part that I look forward to the most about these exercises is being able to see the change in confidence in our young pilots, flight engineers and aerial gunners when they are a part of something like this and see the end game successfully executed," Schramm said. "They come out with that confidence of 'I've been a part of something like this, I've seen how it's supposed to work and I can do this in real life.'
"I know that our young guys here will be able to take their experiences here and apply them when they're down range," he continued. "I think they'll come to see that certain things will come much easier to them than they thought it would, just because of the training."
One Airman from the 33rd RQS explained that although he's extremely excited about his first deployment as an aerial gunner, he knows that the training he'll receive from this exercise will be invaluable.
"I'm excited about being able to experience more realistic scenarios and learn my job on a much more tactical level," said Airman 1st Class Michael Schlemmer, who's been an aerial gunner with the 33rd RQS for a little more than three months. "There's only so much you can learn from books, and with so much experience throughout our squadron, I know they will help prepare me as much as possible for upcoming deployments."
Article by Staff Sgt. Sara Csurilla, 18th Wing Public Affairs