Train today, prepare for tomorrow

HINDERCLAY, England -- A downed pilot in a large, open field is surrounded by threats and is in need of a swift recovery.

On this cold and dreary day, F-15E Strike Eagles dismantle radar threats above as F-15C Eagles assist with air-to-air combat defense.

This exercise was the combat search and rescue task force scenario that took place near Hinderclay, England, Feb. 4.

The 48th Fighter Wing's 493rd and 494th Fighter Squadrons, 56th and 57th Rescue Squadrons, along with 100th Air Refueling Wing air support, participated in the CSAR training exercise to gain expertise and practice real-world deployment scenarios. 

"We try to make these exercises as realistic as possible using stuff we see in the real-world and rolling it into the scenario," said Staff Sgt. Rob Blume, 56th RQS intelligence noncommissioned officer in charge.

CSAR exercises are scheduled monthly to maintain the squadrons' proficiency in their rescue capabilities.

"This is a great way to test our skills and gain proficiency in the CSAR mission, which is vital to not only our own flying missions, but to our allied forces who depend on our ability to rescue them if they go down behind enemy lines," said Staff Sgt. Joseph Bland, 56th RQS special missions aviator.

It's crucial for the rescue squadrons to participate in exercises which allow them to communicate, discover and execute threats, coordinate air-to-air fights and recover survivors, to include NATO allies.

"We've worked with Royal Air Force units in the past," Blume said. "When we deploy, we don't just deploy with the U.S. [Other countries] may not be as up-to-speed on personal recovery as we are, but if we can expose them to that training, it will help in the event that we have to employ."

Each CSAR mission is focused around which assets are participating and what benefit they're trying to get out of the exercise.

"[This training] helps with interoperability within the wing," Blume said. "When the F-15s here deploy, they may not deploy with us and may be tasked with a rescue event downrange. We don't want that to be a new thing for them. It's good to expose as many people as possible to this type of training."

According to Blume, the British community has been very helpful with facilitating the training.

The exercise took place on a local land owner's field that provides an open area suitable for training.

"A lot of coordination goes into our training sites to ensure we have the lowest impact on the civilian population, but still are able to get quality training out of our practice mission," Bland stated. "We rely on land owners who allow us to use their property so that we have many different options for training, all with their own individual challenges."