AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy. --
The 56th and 57th Rescue Squadrons worked closely with the 352nd Special Operations Wing, RAF Mildenhall, England, in support of the U.S. Embassy Zagreb Non-combatant Evacuation Operation, NEO, exercise in Zagreb, Croatia, March 18, 2019.
The exercise rehearsed the embassy’s personnel evacuation procedures in the event of a natural disaster that destroys most infrastructure in the city’s vicinity.
Multiple scenarios were set up where the 57th RQS Guardian Angel pararescuemen provided medical assistance and personnel recovery onto U.S. Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawks of the 56th RQS.
“Personnel recovery is the core function of HH-60Gs,” said Capt Brookes Louder, 31st Operations Support Squadron chief of combat search and rescue tactics. “Bringing this mission capability to our regional partners and letting them know we have this capability and have exercised this capability in the past is really important to us.”
U.S. Air Force members also worked with Croatian Special Police to rescue a volunteer role-playing as the U.S. ambassador from an immobilized vehicle.
“We have built amazing in-roads with the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defense here in Croatia; as well as our U.S. Embassy partners,” said Louder. “One of the things that was absolutely amazing through this, was the support we received from the country of Croatia.”
The proven partnership with Croatia has been built upon shared values and experiences.
Aviano’s strategic location in Europe enables it to provide rapid emergency response to NATO allies and partners.
One of the 31st Fighter Wing’s top priorities is the safety and security of American citizens. NEO exercises enhance the wing’s evacuation tactics, creating a more secure operation for U.S. civilian non-combatants and nonessential personnel overseas.
At a moment’s notice, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa are able to mobilize units in support of the Department of State. The NEO exercise was a unique opportunity to conduct a joint large-scale operation in support of the DoS and U.S. Embassy Zagreb.
The 352nd SOW provided a highly-capable MC-130J Commando II which conducted low-level air refueling for the special operation helicopters and simulated the mass departure of civilians from harm.
“We were able to execute all the core tasks that where given to us and we did it in an expeditious manner,” said Louder, “100% team effort across the board on the U.S. military side.”