Military personal simulate real-life rescue missions in Utah

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC 4 UTAH) -The U.S. Air Force Reserve and National Guard worked together to simulate an operation to save a downed pilot.

The first ever exercise in Utah put military personnel to the test.

Men and women from the 419th Fighter Wing, 151st Air Refueling Wing and 211th Aviation Group all took part in the mission.

Maj. Gen. Jefferson Burton flew in an F-16 that was refueled in air by a KC-135 Stratotanker.

In a simulated crash the F-16 was then shot down in Utah’s west desert.

Two Blackhawks and 2 Apache helicopters then set out for the danger zone.

The mission was dubbed “Lone Survivor.”

“We can go out, we can search from the air and get a very, very wide perspective of the area of which we are looking,” said Chief Warrant Officer Paul Merrill, a Blackhawk pilot.

The Blackhawk is one of the most versatile of weapons in the U.S. armed forces.

It can carry 22,000 lbs., carry a vehicle up to 9,000 lbs. and hold up to 13 passengers at anytime.

“The best thing is these helicopters have such great performance here,” Merrill added. “We can do a lot of things high, hot and heavy.”

An Apache pilot may disagree.

The helicopter only holds two people but is instrumental in the fight against terror.

“The Apache is in incredibly high demand,” said Maj. Ricky Smith, an Apache pilot. “Every aircraft we had when we were deployed was up flying everyday.”

The flying attack ship can hold hell fire missiles, laser guided missiles, unguided rockets with war heads, not to mention the 30mm cannon in the front of the helicopter.

“If you're the good guy, it's a great sight,” said Maj. Smith.

A great sight five men were happy to see in Afghanistan. The troops were stuck in the in the middle of the night and needed to be saved. The only ones around were two Apaches.

“Ground forces were not able to get to the five guys because we were in the mountains,” said CW-5 Ken Jones.

The attack ships were under heavy fire.

“We had to actually attack the enemy and once that was done it cleared the way for myself and wing man to pick them up,” said Jones. “Otherwise those five guys weren't going to get out of there.”

The men snapped on to the wings of the Apaches. They held on until they were out of enemy territory.

“You kind of got to fly slow because that's a lot of wind blast on them,” Jones added.

That's the reason why pilots have to go through this type of training at least once a year -- because it may happen in real life.

“Exercises such as this one are essential to our ability to function efficiently as a military,” said Burton. “We train hard as a multi-service force so that when the fateful moment comes, we are ready to perform, to fight and to win our nation’s conflicts.

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