CAMPIA TURZII, Romania — Her aircraft was downed in a field near Campia Turzii. She was alone with no food or water — only her survival skills and equipment.
She found safety in some bushes to take cover, made a signal for her rescue and established contact with her comrades in the air.
A-10 Thunderbolt IIs pilots from the 81st Fighter Squadron and Romanian IAR 330 helicopter pilots of the 71st Air Fotilla searched for her — the survivor.
That was the scenario Capt. Maureen Hartney, 81st FS executive officer, simulated with the help of Staff Sgt. Daniel Wiggins, 52nd Operations Support Squadron survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialist, in a combat search and rescue exercise during Dacian Thunder July 19.
Dacian Thunder is a joint and coalition exercise in which the U.S. Air Force, Romanian air force, U.S. Marine Corps and the Royal Air Force members work together to strengthen techniques, tactics, procedures and capabilities.
The purpose of training together in this scenario was to establish unified methods and learn coalition and joint procedures used in CSAR.
“This is a part of building partnership capacity,” Hartney said. “We get used to working with them, and they get used to working with us. This way, if a coalition contingency operation happens, we already have unified tactics, techniques and procedures established. We won’t have to establish these in a real-world situation because we’re already familiar with one another.”
The A-10 and IAR 330 pilots worked together throughout the CSAR training to find and rescue Hartney. The A-10s had direct radio communication with both the survivor and the Romanians giving them the ability to funnel information to both parties. The A-10s also escorted the IAR 330s by surveying the area
for any threats that could harm or prevent the IAR 330s from landing to pick up the survivor. They also guided the helicopters into the rescue location.
Once the A-10s established the area was clear of threats, the IAR 330 pilots swooped in for the rescue. Romanian special forces members ran to Hartney and used their tactics and procedures to identify her as the survivor. Once she was identified, they guided her to the helicopter to fly to safety.
It’s important to establish these methods now instead of during a real-world capacity, because any misunderstandings or questions can be answered here in a training environment rather than during contingency operations, she said.
Training here also helps different forces understand one anothers capabilities, Wiggins said.
“I’m learning tactics and procedures other countries practice during rescue,” Wiggins said. “So now, I can tell high-risk isolated personnel what to expect if recovered by our Romanian partners.”
A-10 pilots also gained insight from working with their coalition partners.
“They have different aircraft we don’t fly with a lot,” said Capt. Mike Krestyn, 1st FS A-10 pilot. “This is a good opportunity to fly with foreign fighters and see their capabilities.”
This also provided A-10 pilots the opportunity to conduct upgrade training in various roles such as locating the survivor, assessing the survivor’s health and safety, establishing threats in the area, and controlling the helicopters as they come in to rescue the survivor.
“This was an absolute success,” said Lt. Col. George Stanley, 81st FS A-10 pilot. “We were able to integrate four A-10s with two (IAR 330 helicopters) and two Romanian ground teams in a CSAR mission and get upgrades for two A-10 pilots.”
This was one of eight CSAR training scenarios the U.S. Air Force and Romanian air force are conducting to learn from one another during Dacian Thunder.