Throwback Thursday – Operation Angel Thunder

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Seven Coast Guard Auxiliary Division 10 boats including two personal watercraft participated in Operation Angel Thunder on Roosevelt Lake October 11-12, 2005.

Article by Tom Nunes, U. S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.

Coast Guard Auxiliary boat, Andiamo, accompanies US Air Force Air Force boats participating in the Operation Angel Thunder, the world’s largest combat search and rescue exercise. USCG Auxiliary photo by Manny Romer.

Angel Thunder is brings together military rescue crews from around the world to conduct hands-on emergency response training to increase proficiency when dealing with catastrophic events. Angel Thunder is the largest military combat search and rescue exercise in the world.

Auxiliary boats were positioned as rescue platforms if needed by paratroopers, rescue swimmers, and aircraft. Participants went through a series of scenarios ranging from capsized boats to stranded troops.

“Recovering our brothers and sisters out of harm’s way is a universal moral imperative,” said Colonel Jason Hanover, 563rd Rescue Group commander. “Every service, agency, and nation has an obligation to their people to prepare, plan, execute and adapt their personnel recover capabilities. Angel Thunder is simply the best and most challenging venue to do that.”

Sixteen different countries participated in the exercise. Other participants included federal, state and local agencies including the Coast Guard Auxiliary, the US Forest Service, and the Gila County Sheriff’s Department. About 1400 people participated in the exercise

“Our joint interagency and coalition partners participate as operators and staff in order to walk away with the most robust training experience and comprehensive lessons learned possible,” Col. Hanover said.

Countries choose to participate in Angel Thunder for different reasons. Swedish Air Force Ranger Tech. Sgt. Robert Hedman said that his country has been developing a combat search and rescue (CSAR) ground team and came to Angel Thunder to see how the missions were conducted from start to finish. Pakistan Air Force Capt. Farhat Nadeem, training director, said they were sent to learn more about CSAR tactics due to recent national disasters in their area.

“In Afghanistan we work with different countries while conducting CSAR missions,” said Royal Netherlands Army Captain Willem Steens. “I think it’s better to come to exercises such as Angel Thunder to get experiences with these different assets so that you aren’t ‘learning on the job’ during an operation.”

“The environment here (in Arizona) is similar to that of Afghanistan so it gives us an opportunity to train in terrain that we do not have in our country,” said Royal Danish Air Force Master Sgt. Brian Pedersen, CSAR course instructor. “Being here also gave us the chance to fly longer missions. Denmark is a small country, so we don’t fly long hours while at home.”

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