Airmen from the 748th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron offload one of the two HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters from a C-17 Globemaster III on Sept. 19 at Royal Air Force Mildenhall. A group of former pilots and advocates created a website to save the Air Force's combat rescue mission and to replace the Pave Hawk with a new helicopter. (Airman 1st Class Dana J. Butler / Air Force)
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The possible cancellation of the new combat rescue helicopter the Air Force needs for search and rescue has prompted a group of former pilots and advocates to create a website to build support for the service keeping the mission.
The group’s savecombatrescue.org website is intended to help connect supporters with Congress and Air Force leadership and encourage them to back the replacement of the Pave Hawk.
The Air Force’s planned replacement for the Pave Hawk, expected in 2014, could be canceled because of sequestration.
“This is just not right. What else can guys outside the fence do but try to influence the Congress,” said Henry Mason, a retired Air Force colonel who flew rescue helicopters and worked in logistics. Mason leads a group of former pilots who are organizing the effort.
The grassroots effort does not include any funding or oversight from contractors or others affiliated with the procurement process, Mason said.
Mason said that since the website launched in late October, about 400 people have used it to contact Congress and the Air Force.
“Feedback has been very positive to date,” he said. “People were unaware that the issue wasn’t going to be resolved. I guess it was a surprise that the Air Force wasn’t going to be able to buy a new helicopter.”
For Mason, and other veterans of the combat search and rescue community, having the assets means continuing a mission that is extremely important to the military.
“There’s a moral imperative that if you send your troops into harm’s way, you’re going to go get them. No one left behind,” Mason said. “It’s a pact to all servicemen and women that being an American means we will come after you.”