Air Force's 'Guardian Angels' to receive new facilities

May 28 (UPI) — Ashford Leebcor Enterprises was awarded a contract for new Guardian Angel facilities at Patrick Air Force base in Florida.

The contract, from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is valued at more than $22.5 million under the terms of a firm-fixed-price contract that enables Ashford Leebcor Enterprises to erect a new 65,000 square foot Guardian Angel facility for the Air Force’s 920th Rescue Wing, the Pentagon said.

The contract will additionally provide a parachute tower and other operational requirements. A storage building used for housing equipment will be demolished and rebuilt — once finished it will be approximately 3,500 square feet.

Work on the contract will occur at Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., and is expected to be complete in June 2020.

The total cumulative value of the contract will be obligated to Ashford Leebcor Enterprises at time of award from fiscal 2016 and 2018 military construction funds, said the Pentagon press release.

The 920th Rescue Wing is headquartered out of Patrick Air Force base, about 170 miles north of downtown Miami. Additional unit assets are geographically separated throughout the country and include Portland, Oregon and Langley, Va., for a total of about 2,000 people.

Despite the 920th being a reserve unit, they are required to maintain the same training standards as active-duty rescue squadrons.

U.S. Air Force Col. Kurt Matthews, the commander of the 920th Rescue Squadron, told UPI that the U.S. Air Force is a very small community and that his unit in particular makes up almost 20 percent of the U.S. Air Force’s total combat rescue force.

“There’s a total of 112 helicopters that do search and rescue operations in the Air Force, plus 36 C-130,” said Matthews.

The 920th Rescue Wing has 16 HH-60G Pave Hawk Helicopters - 10 at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida and six at Davis-Monthan Air Force base, located in Tucson, Arizona.

The wing also has 6 HC-130P/N fixed wing tanker aircraft for aerial refueling and transportation of aircraft and personnel at Patrick. Three “Guardian Angel” squadrons, each with 55 Pararescuemen or PJs for short, have roughly 160 that are combat capable to conduct search and rescue operations with one unit stationed in Florida - the other two are in Arizona and Oregon.

Air Force PJs and combat rescue officers or CROs are certified EMT-paramedics and train to insert behind enemy lines to rescue U.S. or foreign personnel when assigned. “Someone’s worst day, is our best day,” said Matthews, reinforcing the Pararescuemen motto: “That others may live.”

The pararescue training pipeline is considered one of the most grueling among U.S. special operation forces, on par with Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training for the U.S. Navy or Assessment and Selection, Individual Training Course for U.S. Marine Raiders.

PJs and CROs go through the same demanding pipeline, with the exception of advanced medical training, with both officers and enlisted attending specialty schools, including Army Airborne School, Army Combat Divers School, Air Force Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape School, and Army Freefall Parachutist School.

The HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters the PJs travel in are cramped and ear deafening, as the engines whine. There are no seats or safety belts inside the aircraft, so rescue crews use carabiners and harnesses that hook into metal rings on the floor to remain secure as they slide around the small working space to aid patients.

“The thing about this force is that they’re all citizen airmen, they’re all volunteers and I can’t say enough to the employers, and to the local communities to let these reservists go at a moment’s notice,” Matthews said.

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