Risking your own life to save someone else’s isn’t a trivial matter. Many jobs involve the potential hazard to one’s life, some more than others. For the men and women of the 41st Rescue Squadron, putting their lives on the line is a way of life. Based at Moody Air Force Base just outside of Valdosta Georgia, their call to battle “That others may live” is etched all over their Squadron home.
The 41st Rescue Squadron has a rich heritage. Founded in 1952, the Squadron has operated almost since the beginning of the invention of the modern helicopter. The Military thought that the then unique aircraft’s main use would be rescuing wounded soldiers from the battlefield, in modern day professional term it is called “Combat Search And Rescue” – or CSAR for short. The 41st RQS are the USAF’s leading outfit in the CSAR business.
The 41st RQS has flown several helicopters during its illustrious history, its most iconic, during the Vietnam War. During the War it flew the iconic HH-3 “Jolly Green Giant”. This helicopter and its missions were depicted in several motion pictures. In recent past the need for Combat Search and Rescue grew following 9/11, US troops were in constant contact in Iraq, Afghanistan and various other locations around the World. The 41st RQS has been deployed in support of both of these missions.
Today the 41st fly the new HH-60W “Jolly Green II”. This model is familiar to the crews of the 41st, they previously flew the HH-60G “Pavehawk” which is an older version of the venerable Blackhawk.
While the platform the 41st fly is important, no less important are the personnel which serve in the Squadron, and the other elements the 41st cooperate with in order to fulfill their mission.
The 41st Jolly Greens have a diverse crew, the mandatory 2 pilots are assisted by 2 Special Mission Aviators (SMA for short) whose job among others is to man the guns the Helicopter carries on each side.
The SMAs assist with the “Jolly Green II”s hoist as well. The hoist comes in use for the other crew that are usually in the back of the aircraft, the US Air Force Para Rescue personnel. Para Rescue are affectionately known as “PJs”. In addition, the Jolly Green Pararescuemen normally belong to the 38th Rescue Squadron which are based at Moody as well. They are Combat Paramedics, trained in a variety of fields to allow them to deal with complex rescue situations should the need arise. These multi faceted crews work closely together to provide the US Military with all the support they need in the CSAR role.
The essence of a rescue mission demands exceptional teamwork, each individual on the team has a job, and the mission cannot be completed without each member doing their part. The PJs use the Jolly Green to get to those in need as quickly as possible. They utilize several on board options such as a hoist to rappel or a fast rope to drop into an area much like a fireman drops down a pole to reach their objective.
Additionally, in complex situations the helicopter can deploy a ladder rope for specialists and soldiers to use to get aboard the helicopter.
The 41st Rescue is led by Lt Col. Thad Ronnau, he is tasked with standing up not only the Squadron, but helping the USAF train a cadre of experienced pilots that will eventually build the Jolly Green II’s foundation for training tactics and flying for decades to come. Because where the 41st go, so goes Air Force Rescue.
Special thanks to the 23 Wing Public Affairs and SSgt Devin Boyer for helping facilitate the segment.