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Personnel recovery exercise brings rescue teams together for RF-A 16-2

U.S. Air Force Capt. Keli Kaaekuahiwi, an A-10 pilot assigned to the 354th Fighter Squadron out of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., applies face paint while evading capture during a personnel recovery exercise at a training site in the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, June 14, 2016, during RED FLAG-Alaska (RF-A) 16-2. RF-A gives U.S. and partner nation forces an opportunity to sharpen combat skills like search and rescue in a realistic threat environment inside the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, which at more than 67,000 square miles, is the largest instrumented air, ground and electronic combat training range in the world. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Karen J. Tomasik/Released)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Keli Kaaekuahiwi, an A-10 pilot assigned to the 354th Fighter Squadron out of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., applies face paint while evading capture during a personnel recovery exercise at a training site in the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, June 14, 2016, during RED FLAG-Alaska (RF-A) 16-2. RF-A gives U.S. and partner nation forces an opportunity to sharpen combat skills like search and rescue in a realistic threat environment inside the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, which at more than 67,000 square miles, is the largest instrumented air, ground and electronic combat training range in the world. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Karen J. Tomasik/Released)

Capt. Keli Kaaekuahiwi, an A-10 pilot assigned to the 354th Fighter Squadron out of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., aligns his compass and map during a personnel recovery exercise at a training site in the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex (JPARC), June 14, 2016, during RED FLAG-Alaska (RF-A) 16-2. The JPARC provides a realistic training environment and allows commanders to train for full spectrum engagements, ranging from individual skills, such as isolated personnel evading capture, to complex, large-scale joint engagements. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Karen J. Tomasik/Released)

Capt. Keli Kaaekuahiwi, an A-10 pilot assigned to the 354th Fighter Squadron out of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., aligns his compass and map during a personnel recovery exercise at a training site in the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex (JPARC), June 14, 2016, during RED FLAG-Alaska (RF-A) 16-2. The JPARC provides a realistic training environment and allows commanders to train for full spectrum engagements, ranging from individual skills, such as isolated personnel evading capture, to complex, large-scale joint engagements. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Karen J. Tomasik/Released)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Kurtis Douge, a survival, evasion, resistance and escape craftsman assigned as the 353rd Combat Training Squadron personnel recovery division superintendent, walks Capt. Keli Kaaekuahiwi, an A-10 pilot assigned to the 354th Fighter Squadron out of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., through using a signaling mirror during a personnel recovery exercise at a training site in the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, June 14, 2016, during RED FLAG-Alaska (RF-A) 16-2. The personnel recovery exercise provides A-10 pilots like Kaaekuahiwi the unique opportunity to experience combat search and rescue from a different perspective. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Karen J. Tomasik/Released)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Kurtis Douge, a survival, evasion, resistance and escape craftsman assigned as the 353rd Combat Training Squadron personnel recovery division superintendent, walks Capt. Keli Kaaekuahiwi, an A-10 pilot assigned to the 354th Fighter Squadron out of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., through using a signaling mirror during a personnel recovery exercise at a training site in the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, June 14, 2016, during RED FLAG-Alaska (RF-A) 16-2. The personnel recovery exercise provides A-10 pilots like Kaaekuahiwi the unique opportunity to experience combat search and rescue from a different perspective. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Karen J. Tomasik/Released)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Keli Kaaekuahiwi, an A-10 pilot assigned to the 354th Fighter Squadron out of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., translates information during a personnel recovery exercise at a training site in the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, June 14, 2016, during RED FLAG-Alaska (RF-A) 16-2. RF-A is a series of Pacific Air Forces commander-directed field training exercises for U.S. and partner nation forces, enabling joint and international units to sharpen their combat skills in a realistic threat environment inside the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, which at more than 67,000 square miles, is the largest instrumented air, ground and electronic combat training range in the world. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Karen J. Tomasik/Released)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Keli Kaaekuahiwi, an A-10 pilot assigned to the 354th Fighter Squadron out of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., translates information during a personnel recovery exercise at a training site in the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, June 14, 2016, during RED FLAG-Alaska (RF-A) 16-2. RF-A is a series of Pacific Air Forces commander-directed field training exercises for U.S. and partner nation forces, enabling joint and international units to sharpen their combat skills in a realistic threat environment inside the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, which at more than 67,000 square miles, is the largest instrumented air, ground and electronic combat training range in the world. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Karen J. Tomasik/Released)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Keli Kaaekuahiwi, an A-10 pilot assigned to the 354th Fighter Squadron out of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., prepares for extraction as an HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopter assigned to the Alaska Air National Guard's 210th Rescue Squadron approaches while a 354th Fighter Squadron A-10 Thunderbolt II passes by June 14, 2016, as part of a personnel recovery exercise at a training site in the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, during RED FLAG-Alaska (RF-A) 16-2. RF-A is a series of Pacific Air Forces commander-directed field training exercises for U.S. and partner nation forces, enabling joint and international units to sharpen their combat skills in a realistic threat environment inside the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, the largest instrumented air, ground and electronic combat training range in the world. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Karen J. Tomasik/Released)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Keli Kaaekuahiwi, an A-10 pilot assigned to the 354th Fighter Squadron out of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., prepares for extraction as an HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopter assigned to the Alaska Air National Guard's 210th Rescue Squadron approaches while a 354th Fighter Squadron A-10 Thunderbolt II passes by June 14, 2016, as part of a personnel recovery exercise at a training site in the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, during RED FLAG-Alaska (RF-A) 16-2. RF-A is a series of Pacific Air Forces commander-directed field training exercises for U.S. and partner nation forces, enabling joint and international units to sharpen their combat skills in a realistic threat environment inside the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, the largest instrumented air, ground and electronic combat training range in the world. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Karen J. Tomasik/Released)

An HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter and rescue crew assigned to the Alaska Air National Guard's 210th Rescue Squadron Detachment 1 approaches a pilot waiting at an extraction site inside the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, as part of a personnel recovery exercise June 14, 2016, during RED FLAG-Alaska 16-2. The primary goal of the 353rd Combat Training Squadron's personnel recovery division is to develop effective rescue scenarios for joint and international forces, which provides unique opportunities for to integrate various forces into joint, coalition and multilateral training from simulated forward operating bases. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Karen J. Tomasik)

An HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter and rescue crew assigned to the Alaska Air National Guard's 210th Rescue Squadron Detachment 1 approaches a pilot waiting at an extraction site inside the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, as part of a personnel recovery exercise June 14, 2016, during RED FLAG-Alaska 16-2. The primary goal of the 353rd Combat Training Squadron's personnel recovery division is to develop effective rescue scenarios for joint and international forces, which provides unique opportunities for to integrate various forces into joint, coalition and multilateral training from simulated forward operating bases. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Karen J. Tomasik)

A U.S. Air Force flight engineer gunner assigned to the Alaska Air National Guard's 210th Rescue Squadron (RQS) Detachment (Det) 1 watches for opposing forces as his HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopter approaches a pilot waiting for extraction inside the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex as part of a personnel recovery exercise June 14, 2016, during RED FLAG-Alaska (RF-A) 16-2. The 210th RQS Det 1, based at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, provides a crucial support role for potential alert incidents during RF-A exercises, which can occur in the more than 67,000 square mile area known as the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Karen J. Tomasik)

A U.S. Air Force flight engineer gunner assigned to the Alaska Air National Guard's 210th Rescue Squadron (RQS) Detachment (Det) 1 watches for opposing forces as his HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopter approaches a pilot waiting for extraction inside the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex as part of a personnel recovery exercise June 14, 2016, during RED FLAG-Alaska (RF-A) 16-2. The 210th RQS Det 1, based at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, provides a crucial support role for potential alert incidents during RF-A exercises, which can occur in the more than 67,000 square mile area known as the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Karen J. Tomasik)

A U.S. Air Force flight engineer gunner assigned to the Alaska Air National Guard's 210th Rescue Squadron (RQS) Detachment (Det) 1 watches for opposing forces as a pararescuman hoists an extracted pilot into an HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopter at a training site inside the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex as part of a personnel recovery exercise June 14, 2016, during RED FLAG-Alaska (RF-A) 16-2. The 210th RQS Det 1, based at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, regularly trains for rescue missions, providing a crucial mission during RF-A exercises, which occur in a more than 67,000 square mile area known as the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Karen J. Tomasik)

A U.S. Air Force flight engineer gunner assigned to the Alaska Air National Guard's 210th Rescue Squadron (RQS) Detachment (Det) 1 watches for opposing forces as a pararescuman hoists an extracted pilot into an HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopter at a training site inside the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex as part of a personnel recovery exercise June 14, 2016, during RED FLAG-Alaska (RF-A) 16-2. The 210th RQS Det 1, based at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, regularly trains for rescue missions, providing a crucial mission during RF-A exercises, which occur in a more than 67,000 square mile area known as the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Karen J. Tomasik)

A U.S. Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopter assigned to the Alaska Air National Guard's 210th Rescue Squadron Detachment 1 departs an extraction point with an A-10 pilot safely on board as an A-10 Thunderbolt II loiters nearby to provide close air support as part of a personnel recovery exercise June 14, 2016, at a training site inside the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, during RED FLAG-Alaska (RF-A) 16-2. The 210th RQS Det 1, based at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, is one of many U.S. and partner nation units participating in RF-A 16-2, a Pacific Air Forces commander-directed exercise that allows commanders to train for full spectrum engagements in the largest instrumented air, ground and electronic combat training range in the world. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Karen J. Tomasik)

A U.S. Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopter assigned to the Alaska Air National Guard's 210th Rescue Squadron Detachment 1 departs an extraction point with an A-10 pilot safely on board as an A-10 Thunderbolt II loiters nearby to provide close air support as part of a personnel recovery exercise June 14, 2016, at a training site inside the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, during RED FLAG-Alaska (RF-A) 16-2. The 210th RQS Det 1, based at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, is one of many U.S. and partner nation units participating in RF-A 16-2, a Pacific Air Forces commander-directed exercise that allows commanders to train for full spectrum engagements in the largest instrumented air, ground and electronic combat training range in the world. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Karen J. Tomasik)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Kurtis Douge, a survival, evasion, resistance and escape craftsman assigned as the 353rd Combat Training Squadron personnel recovery division superintendent, talks about evasion steps with Capt. Keli Kaaekuahiwi, an A-10 pilot assigned to the 354th Fighter Squadron out of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., as they use the terrain to conceal their location during a personnel recovery exercise at a training site in the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, June 14, 2016, during RED FLAG-Alaska (RF-A) 16-2. RF-A is a series of Pacific Air Forces commander-directed field training exercises for U.S. and partner nation forces, enabling joint and international units like the Bulldogs to sharpen their combat skills in a realistic threat environment inside the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, the largest instrumented air, ground and electronic combat training range in the world. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Karen J. Tomasik/Released)
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U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Kurtis Douge, a survival, evasion, resistance and escape craftsman assigned as the 353rd Combat Training Squadron personnel recovery division superintendent, talks about evasion steps with Capt. Keli Kaaekuahiwi, an A-10 pilot assigned to the 354th Fighter Squadron out of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., as they use the terrain to conceal their location during a personnel recovery exercise at a training site in the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, June 14, 2016, during RED FLAG-Alaska (RF-A) 16-2. RF-A is a series of Pacific Air Forces commander-directed field training exercises for U.S. and partner nation forces, enabling joint and international units like the Bulldogs to sharpen their combat skills in a realistic threat environment inside the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, the largest instrumented air, ground and electronic combat training range in the world. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Karen J. Tomasik/Released)

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- The phrase, “So Others May Live to Return with Honor” expresses the overarching goal of those serving in the rescue community and it connects a myriad of career fields dedicated to fulfilling that mission.

RED FLAG-Alaska 16-2 provided an opportunity to connect survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialists, rescue squadron personnel, combat search and rescue assets, and an A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot during an isolated personnel scenario June 14.

“This training gives A-10 pilots a chance to experience what an isolated person feels on the ground,” said Master Sgt. Kurtis Douge, the 353rd Combat Training Squadron personnel recovery division superintendent. “It makes them more effective as a pilot in their personnel recovery mission.”

Multiple pieces must come together to build and execute an effective rescue scenario, which is why this becomes the personnel recovery division’s primary mission during RED FLAG-Alaska exercises.

“First, we are tasked with building ISOPREPs, or isolated personnel reports, processing, and conducting all the behind-the-scenes coordination required,” Douge explained. “Our primary role is to be observer-controllers and make sure pilots are safe and scenarios are completed, but we also provide orientation training for the 18th Aggressor Squadron and training for personnel at high-risk for capture.”

In addition to ensuring safety and mission completion, SERE specialists evaluate pilots to make sure they remembered their SERE training, which is conducted every three years for Air Force pilots.

“The Army, Navy, and Marine Corps only get SERE training during their initial qualifications and then they are considered good to go,” said Douge. “For the Air Force, our pilots receive continuation training at the base level.”

During the June 14 scenario, Capt. Keli Kaaekuahiwi, an A-10 pilot assigned to the 354th Fighter Squadron out of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, participated as the isolated personnel in need of recovery from enemy territory.

In the Grizzly Training Area portion of the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, Kaaekuahiwi explained to Douge how he would survive the initial shock and potential injuries incurred from ejecting into an unfriendly area, and then demonstrated his ability to survive off the land with the gear in his possession and evade enemy forces searching for him.

The scenario included multiple A-10s taking out enemy threats such as surface-to-air missile sites and providing close-air support for the HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter crew and pararescuemen who deployed to recover Kaaekuahiwi.

The final piece of the 353rd CTS personnel recovery division’s role during RED FLAG-Alaska exercises is to gather lessons learned from SERE specialists and the pilots involved in rescue scenarios during the outbrief.

“The biggest lessons learned would be to always have a plan after you hit the ground; know that if it’s a high-threat environment what your immediate actions are,” explained Kaaekuahiwi. “Are you going to be able to dig through your equipment to grab specific items or are you going to hit the ground with only what you’re wearing. Think through what you’d do with the minimal equipment to survive and evade in the specific theater that you're in.”

Lessons learned from pilots like Kaaekuahiwi help the personnel recovery division to effectively teach multi-service pilots how to conduct effective personnel recovery missions and safely bring their people home.

“At the end of the day, we want our people to come home safe,” said Douge. “This is why we exist; we do what we do so that others may live to return with honor.”
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