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Rescue Wing Airmen depart for Afghanistan

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla.- A C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft takes off from the runway here for Afghanistan carrying a dozen pararescuemen and their gear. The Air Force Reservists are from the 920th Rescue Wing. They will perform life-saving missions. The wing's other peacetime missions include providing local search-and-rescue support for civilians who are lost at sea or in distress. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Natasha Dowridge)

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla.- A C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft takes off from the runway here for Afghanistan carrying a dozen pararescuemen and their gear. The Air Force Reservists are from the 920th Rescue Wing. They will perform life-saving missions. The wing's other peacetime missions include providing local search-and-rescue support for civilians who are lost at sea or in distress. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Natasha Dowridge)

PATRICK AFB, Fla. --      Approximately a dozen Rescue Wing Reservists from the Air Force Reserve's 920th Rescue Wing departed Sept. 1 from Patrick Air Force Base for duty in Afghanistan, where they will perform lifesaving missions.
     "I'm proud of them and their ability to perform at the level they do," said Lt. Col. Kurt Matthews, commander of the pararescue squadron.
     The wing's primary wartime job is combat search and rescue, which involves locating
and rescuing service members isolated or injured in combat - such as pilots shot down behind enemy lines or soldiers injured on the battlefield.
     "While over there they will on average, conduct half a dozen rescues a day and save anywhere from 200-300 people a month," said Colonel Mathews.
     A "save" refers to a situation where, without immediate intervention, a person would lose their life, a limb or eyesight.
     During their last deployment to Afghanistan in 2010, they are credited with saving 450 lives. One particular event took them high up in the mountains of the Helmand Province,
more specifically, the Salang Pass, at an elevation of approximately 11,500 feet.
     The Guardian Angel Airmen used their diverse rescue skills to treat and evacuate
survivors of multiple avalanches that occurred in this major mountain pass which connects northern Afghanistan to the Kabul province, with further connections to southern Afghanistan and Pakistan.
     More than 1,500 Afghans were stranded in frigid weather with raging winds and minus-40 degree air. After 12 flights in aseven-hour period, the Guardian Angel Airmen were able to
assist more than 300 people.
     Currently, 920th Airmen are celebrating a 50-year history serving as guardians of the astronauts during NASA space shuttle missions. The space transportation ended in July 2011, but 920th Airmen work closely with the 45th Space Wing and NASA providing safety and security of the Eastern Range supporting all rocket launches.
     The unit's other peacetime missions include providing local search-and-rescue support for civilians who are lost at sea or in distress.
     The wing also provides worldwide humanitarian relief, supporting rescue efforts in the aftermath of disasters such as hurricanes, floods and earthquakes.
     For details about the 920th RQW, log on to the wing's Web site: www.920rqw.afrc.af.mil or follow them on Facebook or Twitter.