An HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter assigned to the 56th Rescue Squadron departs from the flightline at Aviano AFB, Italy, Dec. 17, 2018. Air Force photo by SrA. Valerie Halbert.
The 56th Rescue Squadron recently deployed for the first time from its new home base at Aviano AB, Italy, with the 57th Rescue Squadron right on its heels, after moving from RAF Lakenheath, England, last year.
The Air Force moved the two squadrons, with the 56th’s HH-60G Pave Hawks, to Italy last year to free up space at the English base. The move also puts the personnel recovery capability closer to Africa, eastern Europe, and the Middle East, the Air Force said when the move was announced.
The process once the airmen and aircraft moved took about a year to “get their footing,” establish a training infrastructure, and “regain their combat readiness,” said Brig. Gen. Daniel Lasica, commander of the 31st Fighter Wing at Aviano. The Pave Hawks and pararescuemen are “for sure” ready now, he told reporters Sept. 16 at AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference.
Both rescue squadron deployments are to the US Central Command area of responsibility. The squadrons made their final flight at Lakenheath in May 2018.
Aviano is a “strategically important” base for the Air Force to have the combat search and rescue capability, based on recent history of operations in the region. Its location has made it a jumping off point for operations in Africa, including during the 2011 Odyssey Dawn mission in Libya. Strike aircraft also staged at the Italian base for the April 2017 strikes on Syrian chemical facilities, showing that Aviano is a place to be to “get places quick,” Lasica said.
Editor’s note: This story was updated Sept. 17 to reflect the correct aircraft assigned to the squadrons.