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Element of Surprise: Patrick Reservists tackle training during Hawaii field exercise

Distant Horizon 2021

A 920th Rescue Wing HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter flies near the Hawaiian coast during Exercise Distant Horizon in August. The 920th RQW established a forward operating base to conduct field-exercise Distant Horizon to validate tactics, techniques and procedures of personnel recovery and agile combat employment in the Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Distant Horizon 2021

920th Rescue Wing Airmen push an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter out from inside a 433rd Airlift Wing C-5 Galaxy aircraft after returning to Patrick Space Force Base, Florida, from Exercise Distant Horizon. (Master Sgt. Kelly Goonan)

Distant Horizon 2021

A 920th Rescue Wing HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter receives air-to-air refuel from a 920th RQW HC-130J Combat King II aircraft during Exercise Distant Horizon. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Distant Horizon 2021

920th Rescue Wing Aeromedical Staging Squadron Airmen triage simulated casualties during Exercise Distant Horizon. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Distant Horizon 2021

920th Rescue Wing Airmen watch as an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter takes off during Exercise Distant Horizon. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Distant Horizon 2021

920th Rescue Wing pararescuemen treat moulage wounds of simulated injured Airmen onboard an HC-130J Combat King II.(U.S. Air Force photo)

In a remote and desolate field at U.S. Army Garrison, Hawaii, 100 one-person tents seemed to appear out of nowhere as Reserve Citizen Airmen from the 920th Rescue Wing, Patrick Space Force Base, Florida, established a forward operating base to conduct a field exercise.

Called Distant Horizon, the event was designed to validate tactics, techniques and procedures of personnel recovery and agile combat employment in the Indo-Pacific region.

In less than 24 hours, 920th RQW personnel mobilized, maneuvered across 4,700 miles, established a forward operating base and postured to conduct rescue raid events as a self-sustained encampment for seven days. The Rescue Force - Light package is a combined arms team of ground and air combatants. The wing also projects heavy and medium packages designed for assaults on defended points of incident.

“For seven days, we validated a new force presentation model focused on rescue in contested maritime and jungle environments,” said Col. John Dobbin, 920th RQW commander. “We succeeded at an autonomous operation that capitalized on speed, maneuver and unpredictability while we executed it halfway around the world from our point of origin.”

Strategic airlift from the 433rd Airlift Wing at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, and the 436th Airlift Wing at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, conducted rapid transport of the rescue force to the remote island location that is part of the U.S. Army’s 25th Infantry Division training area. The rescue force then self-deployed a further distance to its forward operating base.

At the exercise forward operating base and remote initial contingency locations, combatants focused on major combat operation scenarios encompassing kinetic applications in offense and defense for the rescue force and its encampment.

“Initial contingency locations keep us mobile and unpredictable,” Dobbin said. “This projects our fighting power deeper in the battle space, and enables the rescue force to seize the combat tempo from an enemy.”

Establishing a bare base in the middle of nowhere took coordination between every unit of the wing and select joint partners. Everyone was essential, from operational personnel to security and communications, but perhaps most important was the wing’s Single Pallet Expeditionary Kitchen team, which fed the force with two hot meals a day, at times in a relentless physical environment.

“People are operating beyond their AFSC and testing their thresholds in depravity, exhaustion and problem solving. Definitely out of their comfort zones and all to make us a more lethal fighting force,” said a rescue force senior enlisted leader.

Environmental conditions challenged all involved. Temperatures and strong wind gusts during the day increased demands on logistics and sustainment, providing an excellent opportunity to refine standard operating procedures of the combat sustainment team.

“The exercise allowed us to practice skills we have been developing over the last year with a combined arms team and validate our key tactics techniques and procedures. We were highly successful in validating these tactics, techniques and procedures,” said the rescue force commander.

Distant Horizon is an annual exercise that prepares the wing for priority requirements around the world. Vigilant readiness garnered through these exercises and others supports the wing’s mission to plan, lead and conduct military rescue operations and missions to deny competitors and adversaries exploitation of isolated personnel. #ReserveReady

(Phillips is assigned to the 920th Rescue Wing’s public affairs office.)