Irregular Warfare Practice at Angel Thunder

Airmen at the Angel Thunder personnel recovery exercise took part this week in an irregular warfare scenario designed to mirror situations that combat search and rescue forces might encounter in real-world operations. During this controlled scenario in Playas, N.M., on April 16, an improvised explosive device immobilized a mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle in a convoy. Once the on-the-scene joint terminal attack controller called for backup, four Michigan Air National Guard A-10s arrived, providing overhead protection. Pararescue jumpers from Nellis AFB, Nev., arrived on two HH-60 rescue helicopters, also from Nellis, to free the trapped victims in the MRAP. As the PJs worked to free the victims, a suicide bomber drove a truck toward them that detonated nearby, wounding one of the PJs. Next, they began taking shots from enemy ground forces; the A-10s responded. Once the PJs freed the victims, the PJs quickly loaded them into the HH-60s and flew out. As chaotic as the scenario seemed, that’s exactly what Angel Thunder planners wanted. The purpose was to provide the participants with “consequence management tasks,” so they can think quickly on their feet, said Phillip Sloniger, one of the mission planners. (For more of our on-the-scene exercise coverage, read Angel Thunder.)