All posts by Tanya Schusler


Behind the scenes of Team Rescue at Space Shuttle Endeavour launch

By Lt Col Robert Haston
920th Rescue Wing Chief of Safety                   

No space shuttle crew ascends to the Heavens without a few angels on its shoulders. The 920th Rescue Wing, stationed out of Patrick Air Force Base, is always on deck to ensure the astronauts are safe in case of a mishap. In this blog post, Lt Col Haston, an HH-60G Pave Hawk Pilot,  provides us with a glimpse of the 920th Rescue Wing’s mission before, during, and after launch.

Team Rescue

Our support for the launch starts three hours before launch (L-180 in NASA lingo) when two HH-60s from Patrick AFB arrive at the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) to be ready for different types of launch area emergencies (Modes I-IV). At L-120 the first of two more HH-60s is at 6,000 feet over the 20 by 60 mile launch danger zone. They use radar and ship tracking receivers to get a long range picture of boats approaching the area.

Since ships may be closing at up to 30 knots, we initially scan an area a third of the size of Florida. We contact and move the ships, which can be difficult considering the ship may be roughly the size and weight of the Empire State Building, and we are talking to a watch captain who has a limited command of English.

Once we have sorted the big boys out, we have to deal with the professional fishermen who are generally no problem unless they are asleep below decks, which might require pushing their boat around with our rotor wash to wake them up. We also have to deal with sport fishermen and pleasure boaters who run the gamut from competent to clueless. Hopefully there isn’t a swarm of them. In the middle of this (around L-90) we pop up and get gas from a Marine Tanker.

We go land and get ready for our real job, covering for potential post launch mishaps. Modes V-VII (at or near the SLF) are pretty much a helicopter show, so they aren’t too complicated unless the Shuttle winds up in the water or trees, leaking poisonous hydrazine, etc. Mode VIII is overwater rescue which may take place off the Carolinas, and involve three tankers and four helicopters, plus more assets coming down from Cherry Point or New York. From exercises, I can say that the real challenge is if we all arrive on scene to find the astronauts, sort out who gets which, who goes to what hospital, and which tanker goes with which helicopters. Hopefully it isn’t on a moonless night in bad weather.

For more information on Team Rescue, see this story. It was posted toward the end of April to coincide with Endeavour’s original launch window.

PHOTO: Every time a space shuttle takes off, the Rescue Reservists from the 920th Rescue Wing, Patrick Air Force Base, are on hand in case of emergency. The 920th Airmen are charged as guardians of the astronauts during NASA space shuttle missions to and from the Kennedy Space Center. This includes four HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters and crew, three HC-130 P/N King aircraft and crew and about 15 pararescuemen, not to mention all of the maintenance support personnel who keep these aged aircraft flying. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Matthew C. Simpson)


Countdown to Discovery launch


By 1st Lt Trisha Eldrege, Public Affairs Officer
45th Space Wing

The Air Force supports NASA’s Space Shuttle program from when the shuttle is on the ground until it leaves the launchpad. The 45th Space Wing provides NASA with launch weather forecasts, launch and range operations, and safety and public affairs support. Lt Eldrege was the media spokesperson for the 45th Space Wing at today’s Discovery launch from Kennedy Space Center (KSC). She shares her experiences from KSC’s press site as she eagerly awaits the countdown.

I’m at KSC’s press site, and we’re only about 15 minutes  from today’s Discovery launch. I’ve worked a dozen or so launches, and it never gets old. It’s always AMAZING! I’m surrounded by about 300 media. So far, no weather problems, so the AF weather officer sitting next to me isn’t  the focus of their attention. I’m looking at the countdown clock, and the shuttle is on the pad, only 3 or so  miles away. People have come from all over the world to watch this launch, and the Cape coastline is packed – very fun and festive. I can’t believe I get paid to do this job. Go Discovery!

PHOTO: NASA’s Shuttle Discovery sits on the launchpad ready to go. Photo courtesy NASA.


Happy New Year!

By Tech. Sgt. Karen J. Tomasik
and Tanya Montgomery
Air Force Public Affairs Agency

As the end of 2010 approaches, everyone and their father, mother, veterinarian, whoever, is getting reminiscent about the past year and releasing their top 10 lists. We haven’t compiled any lists — just yet. We’re just happy that we made some top 10 lists.

In this blog post, we’re taking the easy path and in turn, making it easier for you to have access to our 2010 CliffsNotes version of the top 10 lists the United States Air Force made. Is this laziness, you wonder? No, it’s being efficient and smart :-)

Check out numbers 8, 7, 4 and 1 at the Ten for ’10: Top Armed with Science Videos of the Year.

See the mentions for entries 10, 5 and 3 at the Ten for ’10: Top Armed with Science Podcasts of the Year.

We made numbers 10 and 7 in the Top Blog Posts on DoD Live in 2010.

We’d like to invite you to view our Photos of the Year for 2010, which were selected based on the number of views they received. Let us know what you think and what types of photos you’d like to see in the future.

Thanks to everyone who has taken time to follow what we have been working on and participating in this year. We strive to continue bringing you great technology while serving our country around the world in the years to come!

Best wishes for a happy, healthy, prosperous and peaceful 2011 to all of our service members and supporters!

PHOTO: A U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft from the 335th Fighter Squadron releases flares during a local training mission over North Carolina, Dec. 17, 2010.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Michael B. Keller)


Tops in Blue auditions – cherish, remember each day

By Senior Airman Chadwick McGuire

Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas

An early morning and eventful day comes to an end. A sense of accomplishment and anticipation fills the air for more reasons than one.

Today we got a taste of what the stage will be like on the night of the performance upon completion of our technical rehearsal and preparation with the band.

For some, this was an all too familiar feeling, but to others it was an experience like no other. Fine tuning is the key to the ultimate performance, and the days are flying by as our schedules are filled with appointments, rehearsals, auditions and other preparations.

The highlight of the evening was the evaluation of the contestants’ dancing abilities.

At first, some contestants seemed uncomfortable, but as the music plays and they hear the other contestants rooting for them, they loosen up and break out of their shells. Bonds are being created, friendships are in the making, and a chance of a lifetime is within each contestant’s grasp.

Time will tell what the future holds for each of us, but each day here will definitely be one to be remembered and cherished for a lifetime.

PHOTO: Senior Airman Chadwick McGuire, Goodfellow AFB, Texas, poses for a portrait during the Air Force Tops in Blue audition.  Senior Airman McGuire is one of many instrumentalists auditioning for the 2011 Air Force Tops in Blue worldwide tour. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young)

Fairchild Trophy

First-Ever Global Strike Challenge Recognizes ‘Best of the Best’ Bomb and Missile Wings

By Air Force Global Strike Command Public Affairs

Nov. 19, 2010

Air Force Global Strike Command’s first-ever Global Strike Challenge concluded on a high note with the presentation of the Blanchard and Fairchild trophies for the best Missile and Bomb Wings. The competitors energized the crowd with loud cheers and display of their mascots, proudly showing them off throughout the score posting. After months of preparation by the teams, the competition ended as the best of the best were recognized.

Whiteman’s 509th Bomb Wing took home the Fairchild trophy in what proved to be a tough race for the best bomb wing.

F.E. Warren’s 90th Missile Wing was the night’s other big winner and was awarded the Blanchard trophy.

The competition served a dual purpose of training and recognizing Airmen throughout Global Strike Command.

PHOTOS: (Top) The 509th Bomb Wing from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., was awarded the Fairchild Trophy for best bombardment wing during the Global Strike Challenge score posting events at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Nov. 17, 2010. The trophy is named after Gen. Muir S. Fairchild, former U.S. Air Force Vice Chief of Staff, and is one of the competition’s two top awards. For Global Strike Challenge, teams had mascots and spirit uniforms to show esprit de corps. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Corey A. Clements)
(Bottom) The 90th Missile Wing from F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., was awarded the Blanchard Trophy for best missile wing during the Global Strike Challenge score posting events at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Nov. 17, 2010. The trophy is named after Gen. William H. Blanchard, Strategic Air Command’s Director of Operations in the early 1960s, and is one of the top two awards for the competition. For Global Strike Challenge, teams had mascots and spirit uniforms to show esprit de corps. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Chad Warren)