These 14 photos vividly show how the military rescues downed aircrew

The U.S. military is an expeditionary force capable of deploying anywhere in the world, and as a consequence of that, aircrews flying into harm’s way might get shot down or crash in hostile lands.  That’s when the work starts for combat search and rescue teams.

1. When the military needs to recover downed aircrews, it conducts a “personnel recovery” mission.

combat-search-and-rescue-CERTEX - Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel

(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Brandon Maldonado)

2. Different branches have different names and preferred methods for these missions, but all of them include a lot of planning and attention to detail.

Personnel-recovery-combat-search-and-rescue-Guardian Angel Combat Leaders Course put into action

(Photo: U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Mya M. Crosby)

3. Once a plan is created, a group of specialized warriors prepares to jump, fly, or drive into combat. In this photo, an Air Force pararescue team gets ready to parachute into a simulated mission.

Crucial capabilities unite: Personnel recovery, airlift, and aeromedical evacuation-comat-search-and-rescue

(Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Justyn M. Freeman)

4. If the service doesn’t know the exact location of a downed aircrew, they dispatch people to go search for them. The preferred method is to fly over the area and use sensors to search the ground.

A-10-Osan-combat-search-and-rescue-demonstration

(Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jonathan Steffen)

5. Sometimes, aircraft are limited by weather, enemy activity, or other factors. This can lead to troops having to search through a dangerous area on foot.

combat-search-and-rescue-CERTEX - Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel

(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Brandon Maldonado)

6. Personnel can get to the search area in a variety of ways, including parachuting in.

Crucial capabilities unite: Personnel recovery, airlift, and aeromedical evacuation-comat-search-and-rescue

(Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Justyn M. Freeman)

7. Helicopters are the most popular method of insertion of recovery personnel.

106th Rescue Wing Celebrates Family Day at FS Gabreski-personnel-recovery-combat-search-and-rescue

(Photo: U.S. Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Muncy)

8. In recent years the V-22 Osprey has been increasingly employed.

3rd Battalion, 7th Marines never leave a Marine behind-personnel-recover-combat-search-and-rescue

The V-22 is a tilt-rotor aircraft that can fly quickly and for long ranges with its engines pointed forward but can rotate its blades up to allow it to hover and land vertically like a helicopter. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Shellie Hall)

9. Once the rescue crews are nearby, isolated personnel are encouraged to signal them using pre-assigned methods. Here, a simulated casualty swings a chemlight to signal to other Marines landing in a cloud of dust.

SPMAGTF-CR-CC, 2/7, Conducts TRAP-combat-search-and-rescue

(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Trever Statz)

10. On the ground, the recovery team is responsible for securing the area and watching out for enemy activity.

SPMAGTF-CR-CC, 2/7, Conducts TRAP-combat-search-and-rescue

(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Trever Statz)

11. Medical assets assigned to the team will evaluate any casualties and conduct emergency care for members of the downed aircrew.

SPMAGTF-CR-CC, 2/7, Conducts TRAP-combat-search-and-rescue

(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Trever Statz)

12. Then, everyone gets back on the birds to get out of dodge before any enemies show up.

Pararescuemen train alongside Afghan Air Force Airmen-personnel-recovery-combat-search-and-rescue

(Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Larry E. Reid Jr.)

13. For service members isolated in areas where helicopters can’t land, the rescue crews can bring in winches or other equipment to get everyone out anyway.

Pararescuemen train alongside Afghan Air Force Airmen-personnel-recovery-combat-search-and-rescue

(Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Larry E. Reid Jr.)

14. Once everyone is on board, the birds head back to base. The formerly isolated personnel will then be offered medical care and either return to their unit or be sent back to the U.S. for additional treatment.

106th Rescue Wing Celebrates Family Day at FS Gabreski-personnel-recovery-combat-search-and-rescue

(Photo: U.S. Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Muncy)

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