South Bay News

Air Nat. Guard rescue wing deploys to Afghanistan

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The South Bay's Air National Guard rescue wing is deploying to Afghanistan and Africa this week. Some personnel and equipment left on Thursday afternoon.

Their Pave Hawk helicopter is the Air Force-version of the Black Hawk. It's specially equipped for rescue missions and on Thursday it was loaded onto a C-5 cargo plane to make the trip to Afghanistan.

It carries two pilots, a gunner, a flight engineer and two pararescuemen. A video provided to us of past missions shows how they fly in to rescue casualties -- military and civilian -- in all kinds of terrain, under all kinds of conditions, including under fire.

"When we do casualty evacuation our goal is to get to the injured as soon as we can. Sometimes that means a firefight is still going on," said California Air National Guard Maj. Esther Sablan.

Sablan is a Pave Hawk pilot. She's leaving behind her civilian job as an aerospace engineer, her husband, and three kids under the age of four.

"I drive my kids to school, I come home at night and make them dinner. I have a totally normal life outside of doing this," said Sablan.

Sablan has been deployed to Iraq before. This is her first time to Afghanistan, but for pilot Maj. Brian Finnerty, it's the third time to Afghanistan, fourth deployment overall.

"This is my fourth, but for some of the other people with us, this is maybe their sixth or eighth, so people have been there a lot of times and over the course of the past 11 years," said Finnerty.

They will be stationed on the front lines in Afghanistan and for general emergency services support in the unstable horn of Africa region. The same skills they take overseas are put into use here at home.

"These are the same forces that just several months ago were deploying to Hurricane Sandy and before that, were fighting the wildfires here in California," said Col. Jeffrey Magarm.

The forces deploying now have known for about nine months, giving them time to prepare.

It turns out, California is an ideal place for them to train since much of the terrain here is similar to what's found in Afghanistan.

(Copyright ©2014 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

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santa clara county, africa, afghanistan, south bay news, heather ishimaru
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