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38 RQS trains to support SpaceX, Boeing

Photo of Airmen boarding an aircraft

Pararescuemen assigned to the 38th Rescue Squadron walk to an HC-130J Combat King II during water-jump training on the Banana River near Patrick Space Force Base, Fla., Aug. 24, 2021. The training was designed to prepare pararescuemen for supporting the SpaceX human spaceflight program and Boeing’s spaceflight program. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Melanie A. Bulow-Gonterman)

Photo of Airman jumping off an aircraft

Pararescuemen assigned to the 38th Rescue Squadron jump from an HC-130J Combat King II into the Banana River near Patrick Space Force Base, Fla., Aug. 24, 2021. Training is crucial to rescue operations due to the high level of teamwork required and the physically-demanding scenarios pararescuemen encounter. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Melanie A. Bulow-Gonterman)

PATRICK SPACE FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFNS) --

Pararescuemen, aircrew flight equipment Airmen and maritime operations specialists assigned to the 38th Rescue Squadron, Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, conducted rescue training in the Banana River and Atlantic Ocean near Patrick Space Force Base, Aug. 23-27.

The 38th RQS Blue Team performed free fall jumps and equipment drops into water to prepare for potential operations supporting the SpaceX human spaceflight program and Boeing’s spaceflight program as well as other immediate response-force operations.

“When astronauts are doing their launches, we cover down in the Pacific or Atlantic Ocean,” said Tech. Sgt. Michael Galindo, 38th RQS pararescueman and Blue Team section chief. “That way, if they have an emergency and they need a bailout, we’re the rescue team on-site who would recover them from their capsule.”

Photo of Airmen parachuting
Pararescuemen assigned to the 38th Rescue Squadron conduct water jumps into the Banana River near Patrick Space Force Base, Fla., Aug. 24, 2021. The training was designed to prepare pararescuemen for supporting the SpaceX human spaceflight program and Boeing’s spaceflight program. In the event NASA astronauts were to land in the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean during a launch mishap, the 38th RQS could be called upon to rescue them from their capsule. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Devin Boyer)
Photo of Airmen parachuting
Pararescuemen assigned to the 38th Rescue Squadron conduct water jumps into the Banana River near Patrick Space Force Base, Fla., Aug. 24, 2021. The training was designed to prepare pararescuemen for supporting the SpaceX human spaceflight program and Boeing’s spaceflight program. In the event NASA astronauts were to land in the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean during a launch mishap, the 38th RQS could be called upon to rescue them from their capsule. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Devin Boyer)
Photo By: Staff Sgt. Devin Boyer
VIRIN: 210824-F-EQ901-1834
Photo of Airman landing in the water with a parachute
A pararescueman assigned to the 38th Rescue Squadron lands in the Banana River during water jump training near Patrick Space Force Base, Fla., Aug. 24, 2021. The training was designed to prepare pararescuemen for supporting the SpaceX human spaceflight program and Boeing’s spaceflight program. Pararescuemen must train to maintain the many proficiencies their career field demands. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Devin Boyer)
Photo of Airman landing in the water with a parachute
A pararescueman assigned to the 38th Rescue Squadron lands in the Banana River during water jump training near Patrick Space Force Base, Fla., Aug. 24, 2021. The training was designed to prepare pararescuemen for supporting the SpaceX human spaceflight program and Boeing’s spaceflight program. Pararescuemen must train to maintain the many proficiencies their career field demands. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Devin Boyer)
Photo By: Staff Sgt. Devin Boyer
VIRIN: 210824-F-EQ901-1890
Photo of Airman climbing into a boat
Pararescuemen assigned to the 38th Rescue Squadron board a combat rubber raiding craft after conducting water jumps into the Banana River near Patrick Space Force Base, Fla., Aug. 24, 2021. The training was designed to prepare pararescuemen for supporting the SpaceX human spaceflight program and Boeing’s spaceflight program. The CRRC can be dropped by aircraft using two different methods: a rigging alternate method boat, which is a deflated CRRC that is folded up and inflated after landing; and a hard duck, which is an inflated CRRC fixed to a wooden base and dropped with a large parachute. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Devin Boyer)
Photo of Airman climbing into a boat
Pararescuemen assigned to the 38th Rescue Squadron board a combat rubber raiding craft after conducting water jumps into the Banana River near Patrick Space Force Base, Fla., Aug. 24, 2021. The training was designed to prepare pararescuemen for supporting the SpaceX human spaceflight program and Boeing’s spaceflight program. The CRRC can be dropped by aircraft using two different methods: a rigging alternate method boat, which is a deflated CRRC that is folded up and inflated after landing; and a hard duck, which is an inflated CRRC fixed to a wooden base and dropped with a large parachute. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Devin Boyer)
Photo By: Staff Sgt. Devin Boyer
VIRIN: 210824-F-EQ901-2320

In the event of a malfunction during launch, the capsule will detach itself from the rocket and jettison away from potential explosions or other hazards. The goal is for the capsule to land in an ocean where pararescue jumpers can go in and extract anyone on board.

In order to execute this type of rescue operation, the team needs to be proficient in several areas. For starters, they need to know how to safely land in the ocean with their water gear. Additionally, there are two different boat packages they need to be familiar with: a Rigging Alternate Method Boat, or RAMB, which is a deflated Combat Rubber Raiding Craft that can be dropped by parachute into the water and then inflated upon landing; and a hard duck, which is an inflated CRRC fixed to a wooden base and dropped by parachute as well.

Using these packages, Galindo said their team can load the boats with medical supplies, paddles, boat engines and anything else they would need for their rescue operations. Then, the team can drop them from cargo aircraft and jump into the drop zone immediately after to conduct their rescue mission.

“In October, we're actually doing two weeks of additional training at Cape Canaveral to learn how to access the SpaceX and Boeing capsules … and then make sure we can get access to the astronauts,” said Capt. Trent Vonich, 38th RQS Blue Team flight commander.

Conducting these training exercises on a routine basis ensures the teams are ready to go at a moment's notice. This level of proficiency offers a layer of comfort for the astronauts conducting launches off the coast.

“It reassures them that if they do have an emergency, they know there’s a team who is highly trained in these types of rescues,” Galindo said. “It’s important for us to constantly keep current on this type of jump because there’s a lot that goes into it.”

While this training was specifically tailored to support the human spaceflight programs, it doubles as preparation for potential rescue operations in contingency locations.

“The top two locations in which that would occur would be the Arabian Gulf and the South China Sea,” Vonich said. “Adversaries have a number of capabilities that could potentially put one of our aircraft in the water, and we would have to go jump into the gulf or sea and do exactly what we did in today’s training.”

Whether rescuing downed pilots off foreign coasts or supporting rocket launches in the U.S., the 38th RQS could not execute their mission without trusted teamwork.

"It reassures them that if they do have an emergency, they know there’s a team who is highly trained in these types of rescues." Tech. Sgt. Michael Galindo

“It’s a lot of work being a pararescueman,” Galindo said. “I’m surrounded by a bunch of great people who are constantly challenging me. We have those who are always trying to improve themselves, whether mentally or physically, and it just drives me to be a better person and reach my potential.”

SpaceX plans to launch a crew of three Oct. 31, and the team will be prepared to respond if needed.

“Heaven forbid anything goes wrong, we’ll be ready if it does,” Vonich said.