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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
6. Personnel can get to the search area in a variety of ways, including parachuting in.
7. Helicopters are the most popular method of insertion of recovery personnel.
8. In recent years the V-22 Osprey has been increasingly employed.
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.
10. On the ground, the recovery team is responsible for securing the area and watching out for enemy activity.
11. Medical assets assigned to the team will evaluate any casualties and conduct emergency care for members of the downed aircrew.
12. Then, everyone gets back on the birds to get out of dodge before any enemies show up.
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.
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.