NEWS | March 30, 2021

Rescue squadrons train in Idaho exercise

By Senior Airman Mercedee Wilds 124th Fighter Wing

BOISE, Idaho – Members from 11 rescue squadrons flocked to Gowen Field in HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters to participate in Spud Smoke 21, an exercise focused on weapons employment fundamentals and dynamic threat environments.

The squadrons that participated in the exercise March 8-28 included the 55th Rescue Squadron, 79 RQS, 655th Air Maintenance Squadron and the 563 Operations Support Squadron from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base; 66 RQS, Seal Team 7, 58 RQS, 34th Weapons Squadron and 855 AMXS from Nellis Air Force Base; 512 RQS from Kirtland Air Force Base, and the 14th Air Support Operations Squadron from Pope Field.

“Our main focus is terminal deployment and how to analyze a threat in a terminal area,” said Capt. Forest Shaffer, an HH-60 Pave Hawk pilot with the 55 RQS at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. “We analyze the threats around the survivor and use our techniques to suppress those threats, so we can safely get into the terminal area and pick up our survivor quickly, efficiently and safely.”

Gowen Field is a 10-minute helicopter flight to the Orchard Combat Training Center, which gives the visiting units quick and efficient access to training opportunities and complex scenarios they wouldn't see at their home stations. The technology provided by the OCTC includes pop-up and moving targets that offer more realistic and dynamic training.

“You can create pretty dynamic real-world-like environments with the pop-up targets, and we’re able to tell how effective our shooting is,” said Capt. Roy Taylor, an HH-60 Pave Hawk pilot with the 55 RQS at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

The Idaho weather was also a factor in the intense training environment of the OCTC, giving the warmer-climate squadrons experience facing cold weather.

“The training is second to none out here,” said Shaffer.