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Deployment in the Time of COVID

  • Published
  • By 943rd Rescue Group public affairs
  • 943rd Rescue Group

It’s 2 a.m. on a hot and muggy morning. In an empty parking lot, minivans and SUV’s are gathering together. People of all ages are gathering around a sidewalk, holding signs with barely visible names. A 5-year-old girl sits on the curb, hands holding her face, waiting, waiting, waiting…

At the beginning of 2020, the 304th Rescue Squadron, 305th Rescue Squadron and 943rd Maintenance Squadron deployed to undisclosed locations. For the 943rd Rescue Group, whose primary mission is Combat Search and Rescue, CSAR, deploying is a regular part of their battle rhythm.

Lt. Col. Jesse, 943rd RQG Commander, said “I’m happy to have the 304th, 305th and 943rd MXS back safe and sound after successful deployments. I look forward to them getting their Rest & Relation time and then getting back to work to train for whatever is next.”

The expected duration of the deployment was extended due to unforeseen circumstances, namely COVID-19.

Beginning on March 13th, and subsequent addendum’ the Department of Defense directed a Stop Movement in order to slow down the spread of the virus. This affected leave requests, moving to a new base and deployments.

As Air Force Reservists, the majority of the 943rd RQG personnel maintain full-time employment in the civilian sector and attend military training on a part-time status. When their return from deployment date is delayed this can bring about additional challenges for their friends and family back home.

The nature of CSAR, pronounced “C-Sar”, is one of flexibility and adaptation and these delays were met with their honed resiliency.

During the deployment, the 305th RQS and 943rd MXS deployed together with their HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters and associated maintenance equipment in order to fully operate in remote environments. The 304th RQS was assigned to a different location but the challenges were similar.

In order to comply with current safety standards, 943rd Aeromedical Squadron personnel were on hand to screen each team member before they were released.

“They also did COVID testing in theater before they returned,” said Jesse. “Many of our team members will perform the 14-day Restriction of Movement, ROM, at their home but some have elected to do the ROM on base.”

In order for the 100 plus personnel to arrive home safely, several aircraft were use and arrived at different times and locations.

The 305th RQS and 943rd MXS are part of the 943rd Rescue Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona. The 304 RQS is located in Portland, Oregon and is part of the 943rd RQG, a geographically separated unit of the 920th Rescue Wing at Patrick AFB, Florida.

By 3 a.m., all the Rescue professionals in this flight have been processed by medical professional and are released to their families and friends. The 5-year-old girl jumps up from the curb and runs to her father, waiting no longer for his embrace.