Upping the Rescue Challenge

Military rescue operations in Afghanistan have been tough—and take longer than those in Iraq—and the planned increase of US troop strength by 17,000 in that mountainous country will up the stakes, prompting Dutch Maj. Gen. Mart de Kruif, a commander in southern Afghanistan, to suggest there will be a “significant spike in incidents” requiring rescue forces, reports the USA Today. Air Force Col. Lee dePalo, commander of the 563rd Rescue Group at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., also told the newspaper that rescue operations in the Afghan theater often call for personnel who can fly in pitch darkness, scale peaks, and fight their way in and out. Among the forces the Air Force has lost in Afghanistan was TSgt. Jason Cunningham, a pararescue jumper who received the Air Force Cross posthumously for his valor in saving 10 troops during one rescue effort. And, part of the rescue mission also includes recovering the remains of fallen troops, which dePalo said prevents the Taliban and insurgents from displaying the bodies. “We deny that, and we provide closure to the families that I think is incredibly important,” said dePalo. SSgt. Thomas Pearce, a PJ with the 38th Rescue Squadron at Moody AFB, Ga., told USA Today that one such recovery mission in 2006 took 10 hours as the rescuers had to establish defenses to fend off hostile forces.