By SSG Justin Andras
| Indiana National Guard | July 1, 2020
An Indiana National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk pilot conducts pre-flight checks before a combat search and rescue training exercise in Miami County, Indiana on June 18, 2020. The mock scenario utilized a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from the Gary Army Aviation Support Facility and multiple A-10C Thunderbolt II fighter jets from the 122nd Fighter Wing, Fort Wayne to prepare guardsmen for the safe retrieval of personnel from a downed aircraft inside hostile territory. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Justin Andras) (Photo by Staff Sgt. Justin Andras)
Indiana National Guard soldiers and airmen brought together their respective aircraft to hone their search and rescue skills during a training exercise over Miami County, Thursday, June 18.
The exercise challenged both Indiana National Guard branches to discover ways to work together toward the common goal of saving human life.
"We are a joint military, deploy jointly and stay on the leading edge and integration among all the other assets," said a 122nd Fighter Wing pilot, who wishes to remain anonymous for operational security concerns. "This exercise keeps us up to date and proficient in our training so that if ever called upon, we are more likely to succeed."
While the Army's medical recovery team specializes in casualty and medical evacuation flying the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters out of Gary, the Air Force pilots specialize in combat search and rescue through their ability to secure the crash site against hostile enemy threats while flying the A-10C Thunderbolt II out of Fort Wayne.
"A benefit of this training is that it allows us to [simulate] going through a high threat area with enemy contact, evading guns and missiles and maneuvering behind tree lines, hills or physical structures," said Maj. Robert Jendzio, the UH-60 Black Hawk pilot in command.
In the training scenario, adversaries shot down a fighter jet, and the Indiana Guardsmen’s mission is to safely recover the pilots from the crash site. Attempting to recover personnel in a war zone is challenging and dangerous due to the threat of small arms, ground to air missiles, radar systems and other weapons.
The A-10s, one of the military's best air support assets, neutralized faux enemy ground threats to protect the UH-60 during recovery. Likewise, the Black Hawk's versatility as a tactical transport helicopter made it perfect for the scenario as a recovery vehicle. Together, the Indiana National Guard’s arsenal include two aircraft well suited for search and rescue missions.
"Some of the only assets in the military trained for combat search and rescue are the A-10s," said a 122nd Fighter Wing fighter pilot. "We're there to ensure everyone comes home."