NY Air Guard rescue experts participate in exercise in the Azores Published Aug. 10, 2021 106th Rescue Wing LAJES, Portugal—Fifteen Airmen from the New York Air National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing participated in a NATO search and rescue exercise in the Azores led by the led by the Portuguese Air Force July 27 to 30. Known as ASAREX 2021, (Advanced Search and Rescue Exercise) the exercise included elements from the U.S. Coast Guard, the Royal Canadian Air Force, and Portugal’s Maritime Police, National Guard, Border Police and Civil Protection Force, as well as the Portuguese Air Force. Pararescue Airmen and an HC-130J Combat King II search and rescue plane from the 106th took part in the exercise, which was based out of Portugal’s Air Base No. 4 at Lajes on Terceira Island. Located in a key location in the Atlantic, the island chain is part of Portugal. The Coast Guard sent an HC-130J Hercules as well, and the Canadians sent a CC-130H search and rescue aircraft with Canadian Search and Rescue Technicians on board. The Portuguese provided P-3 Orion ocean reconnaissance aircraft, the C-295M. C-130 H and UH-101 Merlin helicopters along with a destroyer, the NRP Viana Do Castelo. “I was very impressed by the amount of resources that the Portuguese had put into this exercise,” said Master Sgt. Ryan Dush, a Pararescueman from the wing’s 103rd Rescue Squadron. The 106th’s invitation to participate in the week-long search and rescue exercise, was the result of the key role the wing played in working with the Portuguese Air Force in 2018 during the rescue of injured crewmen from the MV Tamar in April 2017, wing leaders said. A fire on board the ship left two crewmen dead and two badly wounded. Pararescuemen from the 106th parachuted into the ocean 1,700 out at sea to provide medical care for the injured sailors and then worked with the Portuguese Air Force to rescue them when the ship neared the Azores. The training scenarios for ASAREX 2021, provided new challenges for the 106th’s Airmen, participants said. Instead of looking for a ship, they had to locate a 20-man life raft. “This was a lot more fine-tuned searching for the patients,” Dush explained. ASAREX 2021 was a two-part exercise for the 106th Rescue Wing Airmen. First, two Pararescuemen boarded the HC-130 Combat King II at F.S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base on Long Island and took a 6-hour flight toward the Azores. Once on site the crew had to locate the target life raft and the two “survivors” on board. Once the raft was located, the aircrew coordinated with the Pararescuemen for the jump out of the plane. Dush, acting as the Drop Zone Safety Officer, was on the Portuguese naval destroyer ensuring the area was safe for the Pararescuemen to parachute into the water. Then the Parasescuemen simulated medical treatment of the survivors on board the raft and coordinated with a rescue boat for a transport to safety. For the aircrew flying the 106th HC-130J during the rescue, this exercise was an opportunity to train the coordination with the Pararescuemen jumping and also the deployment of a MA-2 Sea Rescue Kit, said Major Ian D’Amico, the HC-130 pilot for the mission. The MA-2 Sea Rescue Kit is a five package bundle that strings two 20 man life rafts together with 210 feet of rope designed to be dropped from an aircraft upwind from the survivor in the water. The wind and current push the rope and rafts toward the survivor bracketing them and allowing them to pull themselves to either life raft. Additionally, in the bundles are medical supplies and emergency radio equipment. “We don’t get to deploy MA-2 Kits often, so this was an awesome opportunity for our Aircrew Flight Equipment members to package them and for us to deploy them,” D’Amico, a 102nd Rescue Squadron pilot, explained. “It was perfectly executed. We dropped the package from 200 feet and it landed 50 feet upwind from the subject and it bracketed them like designed,” he said. D’Amico said the exercise was great readiness training. “Training our own long range rescue capabilities and coordinating search and rescue with other countries was a huge opportunity for us,” D’Amico, said. “When it comes to search and rescue, it’s all about readiness.” Ultimately, this exercise was an opportunity to exchange experiences and knowledge on a multinational level, according to Master Sgt. Matthew Zimmer, a 103rd Rescue Squadron Pararescueman and jumpmaster during the exercise. “It’s really valuable to be able to simulate a real-world scenario and work jointly with other countries involved in search and rescue,” Zimmer said. “Cooperation and interoperability among international rescue operations is vital and everyone involved in this exercise took the steps necessary in assuring that cohesion,” added Zimmer.