The two-week long exercise brought personnel from numerous units. US Air Force Capt. Kimberly Albanese, 55th Rescue Squadron Pilot, said: “It’s good to have all the rescue units together in order to perform similar exercises on the Orchard range. It allows us to synchronize, standardize and compare our tactics, techniques and procedures between the units.”
The 143,000-acre Orchard Combat Training Center has multiple different ranges and 89,500 acres of maneuver area.
Practicing search and rescue scenarios
“The Orchard range has advanced stationary and moving targets that allow us to see how well our crews are doing,” Albanese said. “Nothing like that is available at home station.”
The terminal employment (TE) phase of combat search and rescue is the portion of the operation where airmen are flying into potentially contested environments to rescue a survivor. During the exercise, the rescue squadrons simulated numerous scenarios in which survivors with varying degrees of injury are in need of rescue.
Communication and working in teams
“The TE phase involves a lot of shooting, a lot of tactics, a lot of communication, and working with teams on the ground and in the air,” said US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Austin Burke, 55th RQS Special Mission Aviator. “These exercises are critical to maintain rescue readiness across our community. We are a small community that has to train to a very high standard. We have to take advantage of these opportunities to work together, train together, and learn from each other because they are uncommon.”
Exercises like Spud Smoke 2021 help rescue airmen maintain mission readiness, ensure that others may live and uphold the high standards their mission requires.
“My biggest take away from this exercise is how beneficial it can be to work and train in a new location,” Burke said. “When you work at the same training range continuously, it can be hard to recognize areas that need improvement until you’re in a new environment.”