By 1st Lt. James Killen, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

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A pararescue Airman from the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron assists an injured motorist following a traffic accident in Florosa, Fla., March 3, 2015. The Airman was later recognized with a Community Service Award from the Okaloosa Country Sheriff’s Department for his actions. (Photo by Nick Tomecek, Northwest Florida Daily News)

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A pararescueman from the Kentucky Air National Guard received a Community Service Award from the Okaloosa Country, Fla., Sheriff’s Department May 20 for his actions in rendering assistance to injured motorists following a multi-vehicle traffic accident there.

The pararescueman, who is assigned Kentucky’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, was traveling toward Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., on Highway 98 March 3 when traffic suddenly came to a stop.

“I looked down the line of cars and I could see wheels in the air, so I popped the door open and sprinted down the lane,” he said.

The pararescueman, along with several other Air Force Special Operations Command Airmen who were riding in the same vehicle, quickly made their way to the accident scene and began rendering aid.

A pararecueman, or PJ, is the military equivalent to a civilian paramedic. PJs are also rated to parachute from aircraft into non-permissive environments, and are among the U.S. military’s most highly trained forces.

“When I got to the scene, I could see a motorcycle and I immediately shouted for the rider,” the PJ recalled. “He was fine, so I made my way to the SUV, whose passengers also said they were okay. Then I made my way to the overturned pickup, whose driver wasn’t in good shape.”

The Kentucky Airman assessed the condition of the man, whose feet were on the dashboard as he dangled upside down from his seat belt.

“I didn’t really want to move him, just in case he had a back injury, so I triaged him, checked his airway, his breathing and his pulse. But by that time, a crowd had started to gather around. I started telling them to back away, and my team took control of the rest of the scene.”

The Airman knew paramedics and law enforcement officers were already on their way, so the Air Force team continued to care for the wounded while controlling the scene, cleaning up debris and directing traffic.

When asked about their efforts, Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Deputy Sgt. James Duval said the Airmen performed superbly.

“When I arrived on the scene, every vehicle with injured persons had an Airman attending to them. The vehicle that was upside down had three or four Airman attending to the entrapped driver. They were accessing his medical status, immobilizing him to prevent additional injury and comforting him to prevent shock.

They had literally climbed inside the overturned vehicle so they could accomplish these tasks.

“It is a great comfort to have professional, skilled and talented emergency medics on-scene,” Duval continued. “I was commenting to another deputy, after things had calmed down, that if I was the injured party, these are the guys I’d like to have attending to me.”

Duval recommended each of the Airmen for a Community Service Award, which were presented May 20 in Okaloosa County.

“The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Department recognized these quiet professionals for not only their willingness to assist when the need arose, but the professional manner in which they rendered that assistance,” the award citation read.

Everyone who was injured that day has since recovered with no lasting injuries.

Follow our Air Guard on their official website: www.123aw.ang.af.mil

By Maj. Dale Greer, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

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Two Kentucky Air National Guard Special Tactics troops confer as an Air Force MH-53 helicopter lands on Interstate 610 to evacuate New Orleans residents following Hurricane Katrina Sept. 4, 2005. (U.S. Air National Guard photo)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Chief Master Sgt. Pat Malone had seen a lot in his 23 years as a pararescueman for the U.S. military, including dicey combat extractions in Iraq and Afghanistan and more than a decade’s worth of civilian search-and-rescue missions in Alaska. But none of it prepared him for the devastation he saw firsthand when he and 21 fellow Kentucky Air National Guardsmen deployed to New Orleans Naval Air Station 10 years ago today as part of efforts to evacuate the victims of Hurricane Katrina and the ensuing flood.

“This was, by and large, the worst site of devastation I have ever seen in my entire career,” said Malone, who was chief enlisted manager for the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron in 2005 and retired from the service in 2012. “The sheer magnitude of it — and the conditions that our guys worked in — was the most horrific I’d seen in 23 years of service.” Chief Master Sgt. Jon Rosa, a Kentucky combat controller who also deployed with the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron and retired in 2009, concurred.

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A Kentucky Air National Guard combat controller searches for stranded residents during a search-and-rescue mission in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina Sept. 5, 2005. (U.S. Air National Guard photo)

“New Orleans is usually a place of such revelry,” said Rosa, then the squadron’s superintendent of combat controllers. “But it was like a scene out of ‘The Twilight Zone’ to be in downtown New Orleans and hear total silence except for the sloshing of flood waters. I just couldn’t believe this was America.”

But it was America, and thousands of New Orleaneans were stranded without provisions amid a sea of sewage- and chemical-laced water covering nearly 80 percent of the city.

Rosa, Malone and 20 other Kentucky special tactics troops were among the first military search-and-rescue troops to arrive in the stricken city and begin extracting trapped citizens starting Aug. 31.

The Kentucky forces joined up with about 25 other special tactics troops from across the Air National Guard, including Alaska’s 212th Rescue Squadron, California’s 131st Rescue Squadron, New York’s 102nd Rescue Squadron and Oregon’s 125th Special Tactics Squadron.

Patrolling the city in Zodiac motorboats and other vehicles, the Kentucky-led contingent rescued 1,292 people, sometimes by cutting through roofs to extract trapped residents.

“We had the ability to go through the city and conduct searches where no one else could reach at the time,” Malone said. “We launched from four to 14 boats a day, running about 14-hour shifts in the water.”

Once evacuees climbed aboard the Zodiacs, they were transported to makeshift helicopter landing zones set up along portions of the interstate highway system that weren’t submerged by flood waters.

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A special tactics troop from the Kentucky Air National Guard cuts down street light poles along Interstate 610 in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina Sept. 3, 2005, to clear the way for a helicopter landing zone. (U.S. Air National Guard photo)

The landing zones were cleared by saw-wielding combat controllers who cut down light poles to remove obstructions and then marked the spots with spray paint so information like communications frequencies would be visible from the air, Rosa said.

After an LZ was established, combat controllers would make radio contact with any of the three airborne controlling authorities — entities like an Air Force AWACS plane — and advise that evacuees were ready for transport.

As helicopters began to roll in, the controllers would direct their safe flight into and out of the landing zones using the communications gear they carried on their backs.

One particularly productive LZ became so active that a new helicopter was landing every 50 seconds for 48 straight hours, Rosa said.

“For a while, I would imagine it was the busiest airport on the face of the earth,” he noted.

By the time the Kentucky Airmen returned home Sept. 7, the Air Guard special tactics contingent had controlled the flights of 3,179 sorties responsible for the evacuation of 11,927 people.

Working conditions were challenging, to say the least. Most troops got less than six hours of sleep a night, and the constant exposure to contaminated water caused rashes and minor chemical burns on some of the Airmen, Malone said.

“These guys were working in a giant cesspool contaminated with any chemical in anyone’s garage, oil, gas, deceased animals and sewage,” he said. “It was a giant petri dish. But they knew that what they were doing was important. They chose to be totally selfless and help fellow citizens of the United States. They’re the biggest heroes on the planet as far as I’m concerned.”

Rosa noted that many New Orleans residents seemed to agree.

“All the folks we rescued down there were so thankful,” he said. “I had about 20 people come up and hug me while I was trying to control helicopter landings. That’s very self-satisfying.”

By Staff Sgt. Vicky Spesard, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

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Master Sgt. Benjamin (right), a combat controller with the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, is awarded the Bronze Star Medal during a ceremony at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., June 6, 2015. The medal, presented by Col. Robert Hamm, commander of the 123rd Operations Group, was awarded for meritorious service while conducting operations in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. (U.S. Air National Guard photo illustration by Staff Sgt. Vicky Spesard

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A combat controller from the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron was awarded the Bronze Star Medal here June 6 for meritorious service while deployed to Southwest Asia and Northwest Africa, where he engaged enemy forces and deterred their advances.

Master Sgt. Benjamin was instrumental in the execution of nine missions across five countries and seven landing zones, conducting nine forward-area refueling point surveys and one drop-zone certification in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, according to the award citation.

Benjamin supervised a 53-man joint special operations team during the night infiltration and assessment of a strategic airfield. Working with Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance operators, Benjamin was able to maintain tactical control of three separate maneuver elements on the ground while simultaneously conducting pavement evaluations for two primary runways on the airfield.

Additionally, he supervised a 12-man joint special operations team tasked with an airfield security assessment, enabling partner nation forces to maintain momentum and resupply forces in their fight against Al Qaeda.

Finally, Benjamin delivered crucial survey results to two Special Forces teams conducting strategic site assessments, equipping commanders with support to re-open strategic infrastructure.

The Bronze Star Medal was authorized by executive order on Feb. 4, 1944, and is awarded to service members who have distinguished themselves by heroic or meritorious achievement or service in connection with military operations against an armed enemy.

By Master Sgt. Phil Speck, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs Office

150314-Z-ZU385-816KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A combat controller from the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron was awarded the Bronze Star Medal in a ceremony here March 14 for meritorious service while deployed to Afghanistan.

Senior Airman Robert Willging served with a combined joint special operations task force in Afghanistan from June 1 to Nov. 1, 2014 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. During that deployment, Willging assisted in the planning and execution of more than 100 combat patrols and served with lead maneuver elements while coordinating aerial weapons teams, close air support and medical evacuation operations.

Willging personally controlled more than 120 aircraft during multiple day operations, to include combined operations with Afghan National Army Commandos in which he controlled, de-conflicted and engaged with 24 aircraft to ensure the safety of all ground elements, according to the award citation.

“Airman Willging’s utilization and control of aerial weapons teams, close air support, and medical evacuation platforms was second to none, and aided in the timely extraction of multiple wounded Afghan National Security Forces and (U.S. Special Operations Forces),” the citation said.

The Bronze Star Medal was authorized by executive order on Feb. 4, 1944, and is awarded to service members who have distinguished themselves by heroic or meritorious achievement or service in connection with military operations against an armed enemy.

Story by Cpl. Alexander Mitchell, II Marine Expeditionary Force

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Two Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron off load 50 cc mini bikes to stage on a runway at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., April 28, 2015, prior to a static line jump and Jump Clearing Team mission from a KC-130J Super Hercules assigned to Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 252 during exercise Emerald Warrior 2015. The mini bikes are used to patrol the air strip before the plane lands to ensure there is no debris or hostile forces near the landing zone. Emerald Warrior is a joint exercise led by Air Force Special Operations Command that provides pre-deployment training for U.S. and partner nation special operations forces and interagency elements. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alexander Mitchell)

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. — Marines with the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing transported a team of 20 Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron and Chilean Air Commandos aboard a KC-130J Super Hercules during Emerald Warrior 2015 here April 28.

Working with VMGR-252, the team landed and prepositioned two 50cc mini bikes at an airfield before later taking off again and jumping out to parachute down to the airfield to conduct their planned Jump Clearing Team mission.

“Flying with Americans and the unit helps us toward the training that we do out here,” said Rudy, a team leader with the Chilean Air Commandos. “Working together helps with future missions in a combat area.”

The Marines aboard the Hercules set up static lines and locked down the bikes aboard the aircraft. The 123rd STS and Chilean jump masters worked side by side with Marine crew masters during jumps to ensure safety, speed and proper technique.

“We run checklists before the jumps to ensure quick and safe executions,” said Marine Staff Sgt. Arnold Sosa, a crew master with VMGR-252. “Once we secure the inside of the plane and open up the back ramp, the jump master takes charge of his jumpers while I make wind and time calls prior to the jump.”

Once the jump is complete the crew masters relay information to the pilots.

“I notify the pilots when the first jumper goes as well as the last jumper,” Sosa said. “After that, we give them a total jumper count and total chute count to ensure a safe jump.”

The partnership between the different services and partner nations during training exercises like Emerald Warrior 2015 further enhances their relationships.

“It is a great partnership with great forces,” Rudy said. “Training together and completing missions during Emerald Warrior help toward our commando unit in the future. It brings our guys and American forces together in a strong bond.”

Emerald Warrior is a joint exercise led by Air Force Special Operations Command that provides pre-deployment training for U.S. and partner nation special operations forces and interagency elements. The annual exercise is the Department of Defense’s only irregular warfare exercise.

Story by Staff Sgt. Vicky Spesard, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

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Col. Matthew Davidson (left), commander of the 24th Special Operations Wing, presents Staff Sgt. Nicholas P. Jewell, a combat controller in the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, with the Bronze Star Medal during a ceremony Feb. 7, 2015, at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky. Jewell earned the award for meritorious achievement while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan in 2014. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Vicky Spesard)

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A combat controller from the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron was awarded the Bronze Star Medal here Feb. 7 for meritorious service while deployed to Afghanistan, where he engaged enemy forces and deterred their advances.

Staff Sgt. Nicholas P. Jewell served as a Joint Terminal Attack Controller assigned to an Army Special Forces team from Aug. 12, 2014, to Nov. 10, 2014, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Jewell was tasked to provide tactical advice and assistance to Afghan Army Commando teams performing combat operations in northeastern Afghanistan when he and his team came under small-arms fire.

As rounds impacted within feet of his position, Jewell ran to cover behind a ridgeline and immediately returned fire while simultaneously relaying enemy locations to aircraft overhead, according to the award citation. He then controlled an immediate air-to-ground engagement with high explosives from an AH-64 attack helicopter, resulting in multiple enemies killed in action.

“So obviously he found himself in a bad spot,” said Col. Matthew Davidson, commander of the 24th Special Operations Wing, who officiated the award ceremony and presented the medal to Jewell. “He went out and saved his teammates and saved the mission. It’s folks like him that we want to emulate.”

Jewell also was recognized for his actions during a clearing operation when his element came under direct small-arms fire. He immediately coordinated efforts between ground signals intelligence forces and overhead aircraft to locate and engage the enemy fighting location with devastating effects.

“What we have asked Nick to do, and his teammates to do — in fact what we ask a lot of Americans out there to do for us sometimes — they have extraordinary responses to that,” Davidson said. “Like (Jewell) did on numerous occasions.”

The Bronze Star Medal was authorized by executive order on Feb. 4, 1944, and is awarded to service members who have distinguished themselves by heroic or meritorious achievement or service in connection with military operations against an armed enemy.

Story by Maj. Dale Greer, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

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Master Sgt. Joey Youdell, a pararescueman in the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, created a “unit pride” ceiling tile with his daughters, Olivia (left) and Juliet. The hand-painted tile is one of several that have been installed in The Winner’s Circle recreation center at the Kentucky Air Guard Base in Louisville, Ky. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The daughters of a Kentucky Air National Guardsman have put their artistic talents to use by helping showcase unit pride.

Master Sgt. Joey Youdell and his daughters, Olivia and Juliet, painted a ceiling tile depicting the heraldry of his unit, the Louisville-based 123rd Special Tactics Squadron.

The tile was then installed in the ceiling of The Winner’s Circle, a Morale, Welfare and Recreation Center here. It joins ceiling tiles from other subordinate units assigned to the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Airlift Wing.

“Our leadership wanted to create something that would represent the spirit of the Special Tactics Squadron, and I thought it would be a great project to do with my daughters,” said Youdell, a pararescueman who has deployed overseas multiple times.

Youdell’s daughters painted a base coat on the tile, which soaked up a lot of pigment due to its porous nature and multiple perforations, while Youdell worked on the main art.

“The girls did a great job filling in all the holes with paint,” he said. “It took a long time, but we had a lot of fun doing it.”

Daughters help create cieling art to depict 123rd Special Tactics Squadron mission

Master Sgt. Joey Youdell, a pararescueman in the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, installs a custom-painted ceiling tile in the Morale, Welfare and Recreation facility at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., Nov. 21, 2013. The facility features ceiling tiles depicting the missions of various units on base. Youdell painted the tile with the help of his daughters, Juliet and Olivia. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

The unit’s heraldry features a Pegasus surrounded by a life buoy and suspended by a ram-air parachute.

“The parachute is significant to the unit as a primary means of worldwide deployment, indicating that all special tactics squadron operators are airborne qualified,” according to the Pentagon’s Institute of Heraldry.

“The Pegasus symbolizes genius and inspiration and also represents the unit’s amalgamation of the ground and air elements, which is key to the mission.”

The 123rd Special Tactics Squadron is comprised of pararescuemen like Youdell, combat controllers and special operations weathermen.

Pararescuemen are parachute-jump qualified trauma specialists who must maintain emergency medical technician-paramedic credentials throughout their careers. With this medical and rescue expertise, PJs are able to perform life-saving missions in the world’s most remote areas. A PJ’s primary function is personnel recovery specialist, providing emergency medical capabilities in humanitarian and combat environments. PJs deploy in any available manner, including air-land-sea tactics, into restricted environments to authenticate, extract, treat, stabilize and evacuate injured personnel.

Combat controllers are among the most highly trained personnel in the U.S. military. As FAA-certified air traffic controllers, they deploy undetected into combat and hostile environments to establish assault zones or airfields while simultaneously conducting air traffic control, fire support, command and control, direct action, counter-terrorism, foreign internal defense, humanitarian assistance and special reconnaissance.

Special operations weathermen are meteorologists with advanced tactical training to operate in hostile or denied territory. They gather and interpret weather data and provide intelligence from deployed locations while working primarily with Air Force and Army Special Operations Forces.

The unit’s slogan, “Ingenium Superat Vires,” means “Genius Overcomes Strength.”

Story by Master Sgt. Phil Speck, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs Office

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A member of the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron defends a vehicle during training at Zussman Range at Fort Knox, Ky., on Nov. 21, 2013. The Airman and his teammates were practicing insertions, extractions and close-quarters combat in a simulated Afghan village. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

FORT KNOX, Ky.  — A UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter comes to a hovering stop above a two-story building in the middle of an Afghan village. With blades rotating above, a Kentucky Air National Guard pararescueman scoots to the edge of the chopper’s open door and grabs a thick rope before sliding 25 feet down to the building’s roof. He’s followed by five teammates who quickly secure the rooftop and scan the village for threats.

The scene may sound like a sequence from a Hollywood blockbuster, but it’s just another day at the “office” for members of the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron. They executed the mission in November as part of regular combat training at Fort Knox’s Zussman Urban Training Center.

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Members of the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron climb a rope ladder onto a Kentucky Army National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk during training at Zussman Range at Fort Knox, Ky., on Nov. 21, 2013. The Airmen were practicing insertions, extractions and close-quarters combat in a simulated Afghan village. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

The center offers realistic combat environments that simulate what troops can expect to find Afghanistan, according to Staff Sgt. Jeff G., a Kentucky Air Guard pararescueman whose last name is being withheld because of the sensitive nature of his duties.

“This is as good as it gets for training,” he said.

Pararescuemen and their combat controller colleagues from the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron are Special Forces Airmen. The former specialize in medical treatment and personnel recovery, while the latter control air traffic and air strikes. Both maintain a high level of training to be prepared for any mission.

The “fast rope insertion” described above is just one of many skills the men trained for in November. They also trained for fast extraction, in which a helicopter hovers overhead and drops a rope ladder for the operatives to climb up.

“We do this training to keep our skills up, stay proficient, so we can seamlessly integrate with other units,” Staff Sgt. G. said.

While at Zussman, the team also conducted close-quarters battle training. The operatives cordoned and searched buildings for people or high-value targets such as weapons caches, clearing the buildings one room at a time and eliminating threats as needed.

Throughout this process, they were met by actors who portrayed local Afghans, from a local market owner to hostile enemy forces that assaulted them with high-powered paintball guns. STS personnel used modified versions of their real-world weapons to fight back, employing non-lethal paint bullets, or “simunitions,” to return fire.

The Airmen also conducted full-mission-profile training tasks, using the equipment they would take with them overseas for a real-world operation. Among these tools were the Jaws of Life, a powered cutting device used to extract individuals from a downed aircraft or vehicle.

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A member of the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron defends his position during training at Zussman Range at Fort Knox, Ky., on Nov. 21, 2013. The Airman and his teammates were practicing insertions, extractions and close-quarters combat in a simulated Afghan village. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

According to Master Sgt. Bryan Hunt, a combat controller for the 123rd STS, the unit does this type of training — which they call Military Operations on Urban Terrain — four times a year. It benefits both newcomers and unit veterans he said.

Each scenario was preceded by a dry run, or a practice walk-through. The Airmen would then execute a full-mission profile with night-vision goggles while taking simulated hostile fire.

“We try to apply everything we learned during a dry run, so when you’re actually being shot at, and you’re hot, your goggles are fogging up, the challenge was keeping your head, staying calm and applying the techniques you’ve learned previously,” Staff Sgt. G. said.

“The training was excellent and beneficial because it mimicked actual combat in Afghanistan. It represents that 360-degree battlefield that we experience in Afghanistan.”

Story by Master Sgt. Phil Speck, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs 

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Senior Master Sergeant Billy Hardin, pararescue superintendent for the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, practices providing medical care to a simulated military working dog while blindfolded to simulate darkness during a training session at Jefferson Community College in Shelbyville, Ky., on Dec. 5, 2013. Hardin is one of 10 Kentucky Air Guard pararescuemen who learned to treat military working dogs during the two-day course. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

SHELBYVILLE, Ky. — Pararescuemen are the Air Force’s jump-qualified trauma specialists. They provide injured troops with emergency medical care in the most austere combat environments.

But what happens when the patient is a dog?

On a recent deployment to an overseas combat theater, one pararescuemen from the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron treated twice as many dogs as people.

“There has been a huge rise in the use of dogs on the battlefield, and unfortunately they are getting injured because they are sometimes the first to engage the enemy,” said Senior Master Sergeant Billy Hardin, pararescue superintendent for the 123rd.

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Staff Sgt. David Covel (left), a pararescueman from the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, helps administer an intravenous solution to a dog with the help of Thomas Barrett, a civilian paramedic and K9 medic trainer, and Kalee Pasek, a doctor of veterinary medicine and education coordinator for K9 medics at Jefferson Community College in Shelbyville, Ky., Dec. 5, 2013, as part of a two-day training course. Covel is one of 10 Kentucky Air Guard pararescuemen who learned to treat military working dogs during the course. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

In an effort to enhance their combat veterinary skills, 10 of the unit’s pararescuemen recently completed a two-day training course at Jefferson Community College in Shelbyville, Ky., taught by K9 Medic, a private firm that specializes in medical education for the emergency care of dogs.

Prior to attending the course, the pararescuemen’s only veterinary training was gleaned through personal battlefield experience and by working informally with military dog handlers and civilian veterinarians.

According to Hardin, canines can be a bit more challenging to work with than people.

“The first thing you want to do is muzzle the animal, so you don’t get bit,” he said, explaining that dogs don’t understand you’re trying to help them.

Communications is another problem.

“People can tell you what hurts, but dogs don’t,” he said. “They just kind of look around. So you have pay close attention to them and their movements.”

Injuries on military working dogs, which perform missions like explosives detection, are typically confined to gunshot wounds or blast injuries. The dogs are very agile and good at climbing rocky terrain, almost never twisting an ankle or breaking a leg, Hardin said.

Currently, active duty Air Force Security Forces use dogs, but the Air National Guard does not.

Story by Staff Sgt. Vicky Spesard, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

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Col. Robert Hamm (left), commander of the 123rd Operations Group, presents the guidon of the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron to Maj. Sean McLane, the unit’s new commander, during a change-of-command ceremony held at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., Nov. 24, 2013. The passing of the guidon is a time-honored tradition signifying change of leadership. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Vicky Spesard)

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Maj. Sean McLane assumed command of the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron during a change-of-command ceremony here Nov. 24.

He replaces Lt. Col. Jeffrey Wilkinson, who now serves as deputy air commander of the squadron’s parent organization, the 123rd Airlift Wing.

McLane began his Air Force career in 1993 as an enlisted tactical air controller before being commissioned as a distinguished graduate of the Air National Guard Academy of Military Science in 2002. He most recently served as director of operations for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron and brings many years of experience to his new role.

“Having been the lowest enlisted member of the squadron, you get to see how all of the leadership’s decisions affect you,” McLane said during the ceremony. “I don’t want to be disconnected from that Airman. When that extra workload or difficulty comes to him, I want to know how he is affected.

“If I can’t change the outcome of how it affects him, I can explain to him why it has to be that way,” he continued. “What I really want is for people to understand why they are doing what they are doing and how it affects the mission.”

McLane first came to the Kentucky Air National Guard in 1996 when the special tactics unit was a flight of about 24 members. He earned his combat control beret in 1997, maintaining full combat mission-ready status as a traditional Guardsman while attending college and, eventually, teaching high school math, science and history. His military career includes assignments as a special tactics squadron flight commander and weapons and tactics officer.

“I have known Major McLane since he was an NCO, and I had a lot of respect for him then,” said Chief Master Sgt. Tom DeSchane, the squadron’s combat control enlisted manager. “He has vision and he likes to have as much input as he can before he makes decisions. I think that’s what is going to make him a successful commander for the STS.”

Now staffed with more than 80 personnel, the squadron provides a rapidly deployable force to establish positive control of the air-ground interface, battlefield trauma care, terminal attack control, personnel recovery and air/ground meteorological effects forecasting in support of overseas contingency operations and domestic disasters.

“I want people to be proud of the job that they are doing, proud of their squadron and proud to be a member of it,” McLane emphasized. “If they have the proud ownership of their position, they are going to do their job better.”

Mission readiness is another top priority. McLane has deployed numerous times in support of military contingency and combat operations, including Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom; multiple Joint Chiefs of Staff-directed exercises; and civil natural-disaster response operations and state exercises.

“I’m not interested in fighting the last war,” he told the audience. “I’m interested in fighting the next one. I’m not interested in preparing for the last natural disaster we have faced. I am very concerned with being ready to respond to all of them.”

“When you look at the mission of special tactics, our federal and state mission, where they overlap is what we are going to train to and what we are going to be good at. If we do that, we will be ready for the future war and be ready for what the state needs us to do.”