Reservists from the 920th Rescue Wing here practiced techniques June 23 that may be used during a space shuttle launch recovery mission. The next shuttle launch is scheduled for July 1.
Chief Master Sgt. Jeffrey Curl, Master Sgts. James Johnston, John Shiman, Alexander Abbey, and a new pararescueman, Staff Sgt. Russell Drake, took part in the training.
The PJs practiced deploying a rigging alternate method Zodiac, or RAMZ. Instead of being inflated during the parachute drop, the inflatable, motorized Zodiac boat is deflated and bundled up into a 4-foot cube, then parachuted out of an HC-130P/N. The engine, fuel and medical equipment are also in the package. Two cargo parachutes are attached.
"A RAMZ deployment is a technique developed for astronaut recovery, and other open water rescues, to include combat," Chief Curl said.
The initial phase included preparing and loading the RAMZ aboard an Air Force Reserve Command HC-130 for deployment at a drop zone near the base. The airplane climbed to 3,500 feet as the men prepared for a freefall parachute jump. When it was time, they followed the RAMZ off the back ramp of the aircraft during the same deployment pass.
In an instant, the men cleared the aircraft and pulled their rip chords. The parachutes opened at 3,000 feet, allowing them to waft slowly down to the water below.
One after the other the PJs plunged safely into the water and shed their parachutes for the next phase of the recovery: inflating and starting the Zodiac.
As it bobbed up and down, the PJs wrestled with the Zodiac while it inflated. Once aboard, Sergeant Drake pulled the engine chord numerous times to de-water the engine, attached the fuel line and started the boat.
At this point, "everything (was) going as planned," Chief Curl said. As the sun went down, the men navigated to their objective -- Senior Airman Andy Holzem, a PJ trainee playing the role of survivor. Sergeants Abbey, Drake and Johnston climbed onto the support vessel and began the final phase of their training by administering medical care to the survivor.
Sergeant Drake's evaluation found he performed optimally, and he may now join the ranks of his fellow pararescuemen as combat-mission ready, prepared to put his skills into action saving lives.
(Courtesy of Air Force Reserve Command News Service)