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Getting to know the USAF 79th Rescue Squadron

Getting to know the USAF 79th Rescue Squadron
A U.S. Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawk receives fuel from a HC-130J Combat King II over Arizona, Oct. 7, 2020.
This helicopter air-to-air refuel mission was part of ongoing training across the 563d Rescue Group to ensure interoperability across its multiple squadrons and mission sets.
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jacob T. Stephens.
By Airman 1st Class Devlin Bishop, 355th Wing Public Affairs 

DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. — In the United States Air Force, when one hears, “That others may live,” they immediately think of rescue. The USAF 79th Rescue Squadron at Davis-Monthan AFB fulfills that mission, and more, by supporting and enacting rescue at a moment’s notice.

“The mission of the 79th RQS is to provide worldwide personnel recovery support anywhere, anytime,” said Lt. Col. Kyle Porter, 79th RQS commander. “We focus on getting our people out to different parts of the world to participate in practice exercises and make sure that, if we are needed, we are ready to do whatever is necessary to save lives.”

Originally called the 79th Air Rescue Squadron, the 79th RQS was activated in November 1952 and operated out of Anderson Air Force Base, Guam. After periods of inactivation and reactivation, the 79th Air Rescue Squadron was redesignated as the 79th Rescue Squadron in 2003 and activated at DM under the 563rd Rescue Group, where it has remained since.

With its fleet of HC-130J Combat King IIs, the 79th RQS provides multi-faceted global support.

Getting to know the USAF 79th Rescue Squadron
A USAF HC-130J Combat King II, assigned to the 79th Rescue Squadron, taxis down the flight line at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, Oct. 8, 2022.
Members with the 355th Wing returned home on two HC-130s after an overseas deployment.
U.S Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Devlin Bishop.

“We can receive fuel as well as refuel other aircraft,” said 1st Lt. Timothy Behnke, 79th RQS HC-130J pilot. “We keep our HH-60 helicopters in the air during rescue missions, but we can also refuel fighters, and we can do all of that while getting our own gas from a tanker. The flexibility of the HC-130 is incredible.”

The 79th RQS’s ability to refuel aircraft is especially important during long-distance rescue missions.

In November of 2022, the 79th RQS assisted with the rescue of a Filipino national who had a medical emergency on a cruise ship roughly 500 nautical miles off the California coast. The 79th RQS performed multiple aerial refuelings for the HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters as they were enroute to the ship, which they would not have been able to reach otherwise, Behnke recalled.

The 79th RQS deploys more frequently than other, non-rescue squadrons, which makes it extra important that the members of the 79th be able to get along with each other and work effectively as a team.

Getting to know the USAF 79th Rescue Squadron
A U.S. Air Force HC-130J Combat King II from the 79th Rescue Squadron drops a Humvee during the 563rd Operations Support Squadron’s aerial delivery and recovery training at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., Dec. 9, 2015.
This training marked the first time any rescue operations support squadron packaged and rigged a heavy vehicle without external assistance and the first time a heavy vehicle was dropped by the 79th RQS.
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Chris Massey.

“We deploy a lot, and we spend a lot of time together,” said Porter. “The most critical thing, to me, is that we take the time necessary to network amongst each other and build a family-like atmosphere in the squadron. We should treat each other like family members, because that’s really what we are when we deploy.”


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