Story by Senior Airman Rito Smith
“It is my duty as a pararescueman to save lives and to aid the injured. I will be prepared at all times to perform my assigned duties quickly and efficiently, placing these duties before personal desires and comforts. These things I do, that others may live.”
After 581 days of training, this group of Airmen become the most elite personnel recovery team.
“As soon as every Airmen finishes the pipeline, the first thing they want to do is get out and deploy,” said Maj. Jason Egger, 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron commander at Bagram Airfield. “We have a young group of guys over here that are very motivated, well trained and eager to put their skills to work.”
Pararescuemen and combat rescue officers have a broad skill set that is often difficult to keep sharp without constant training.
“We don’t get to pick the location that an individual gets isolated in; it could be in the water, the desert, the mountains, or the arctic so we have to be able to respond to whatever situation occurs,” Egger said. “We make sure these guys are a lethal force, but also that they can provide the medical treatment and make sure people get home to their family and friends.”
Rescue Airmen like to stay engaged in training, so when the call comes and they are asked to do their job, everyone is ready, he added.
At Bagram these Airmen are the ground component for the Air Force rescue community and provide personnel recovery across the Department of Defense. They are the dedicated personnel recovery asset for anyone isolated across the region.
Unique to the mission here, the 83rd ERQS works with U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook crews to provide airlift support because of the special capabilities those aircraft can provide in reaching high altitudes around central and northern Afghanistan.
“One of the challenges here is the altitude and terrain because we are surrounded by mountains,” Egger said. “We overcome that challenge by working with the Army pilots, which gives us the capability to get to the altitude we need and insert the teams.”
They sit on a short alert window, able to launch within 30 minutes day or night to provide rescue and recovery capabilities for joint and coalition forces, doing their part to ensure everyone can return home.
“In this career field there is an overarching desire to help people by getting them back here or providing that medical capability or that technical rescue needed,” Egger said. “We are here to do a great mission and bring people home. I’ve been doing it for 22 years, and I believe strongly in the mission, and that’s one of the reasons I stay engaged and continue to do the work.”
Egger spent years training to be a pararescueman before being one of the first teams to deploy to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom to provide medical and personnel recovery aid to special operations forces.
“I finally saw all of my training come to fruition when I came here after 9/11 and to see the same thing happen with the guys here is truly humbling,” Egger said.
He said he is proud to provide unique support to fellow Airmen, joint and coalition partners, and lead a team of true rescue professionals in the 83rd ERQS.
“These men and women are taking time away from their families and their lives, and their families are making significant sacrifices so they can be here saving lives,” he said. “They raised their hand and said, ‘I want to make sure that someone’s worst day isn’t their last day.’”
The 83rd ERQS is part of the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing headquartered at Bagram with two geographically separated units at Kandahar Airfield and Jalalabad Airfield, Afghanistan. As the Air Force’s premier counterterrorism wing, the 455th AEW mission is to defend, support and deliver airpower, as well as enable the train, advise and assist campaign for Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and NATO Resolute Support missions.