Back to Back

Some 60 airmen of the 56th Rescue Squadron, assigned to RAF Lakenheath, UK, returned to home station last week after serving back-to-back deployments—first three months in Afghanistan and then six months supporting Operations Odyssey Dawn and Unified Protector. They did manage eight days at home station between the deployments, according to a Sept. 19 release. “In [Operation Enduring Freedom] they conducted med-evac operations in hazardous terrain and under hostile fire, saving the lives of 76 coalition partners,” said Col. John Quintas, 48th Fighter Wing commander at Lakenheath. He continued, “Just one week after returning, before we even had time to unpack, we were asked if we could be ready to conduct combat search and rescue in a completely different theater. Without hesitation, the men and women responded and deployed again within days.” He also praised the unit’s maintainers, who he said were vital to sustaining “a continuous two-ship alert posture with just three aircraft.” And that included the challenges of operating first in blowing dust and then in a salt-water environment—for OD and UP, they operated from the USS Ponce and HMS Ocean. (Lakenheath report by TSgt. Chris Stagner)