16 February 2013

Air Force discontinues Search and Rescue operations out of Kandahar

An HH-60 operated by the 59th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron at Kandahar Airfield sits with its rotors folded in preparation for redeployment. The squadron's departure signals the end of 11 years of combat search and rescue at Kandahar. Photo: Josh Smith / Stars and Stripes.

From Stars and Stripes:

Air Force officials say the end of the specialized combat search-and-rescue mission at Kandahar Air Field in southern Afghanistan won’t leave NATO or Afghan units stuck on the battlefield.

The Army will continue to operate medevac helicopters from the base, but a declining number of missions in southern Afghanistan and growing demand for the specialized helicopter rescue teams elsewhere in the world mean the 59th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron at Kandahar won’t be replaced after it shipped out last week. The move ends 11 years of such operations at Kandahar Air Field.

The 46th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron at Camp Bastion, including a detachment at Kandahar, has already been inactivated.

Since Air Force rescue squadrons arrived at Kandahar in 2002, they have saved nearly 1,200 lives and evacuated nearly 1,800 other people from combat zones, according to Air Force statistics. But officials assert that the redeployment won’t leave troops — who may still face at least one more season of fighting — without help from the helicopters that have played a major role in medical evacuations throughout the war in Afghanistan.

Combat search-and-rescue teams will still operate from Bagram Air Field in the north and Bastion in the southwest, with the ability to cover most of the country, said Col. Mike Trumpfheller, 651st Air Expeditionary Group commander, who oversees the rescue missions at Kandahar and Bastion.

More at the link.

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