Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Command rescue helicopters have been bringing to safety residents of areas of the southeastern Texas coast that Hurricane Ike ravaged this past weekend. Joint Task Force 129, a rescue unit of four HH-60G helicopters, two MC-130P tankers, and more than 100 airmen from the California ANG’s 129th Rescue Wing, New York ANG’s 106th RQW, and Alaska ANG’s 176th Wing, has been operating from San Antonio to help stranded persons near Galveston. On Sept. 13 alone, task force members rescued 48 people, many of them elderly, and 13 dogs. “When we got to Galveston, it looked like a war zone,” said Maj. Rhys Hunt, a 129th RQW pilot. On that same day, Reservists from the 920th RQW at Patrick AFB, Fla., used their HH-60s to pluck 17 people as well as several pets from flood waters in the small Texas town of Nederland south of Beaumont and northeast of Galveston. Members of the 920th RQW have been operating out of Randolph AFB, Tex., as part of the 331st Air Expeditionary Group, which comprises 20 Air Force and Navy helicopters, four HC-130 tankers, and more than 800 personnel. (129th RQW report by Capt. Alyson Teeter and 920th RQW report by TSgt. Paul Flipse)
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.