The 79th Rescue Squadron (79th RQS) has won the That Others May Live Foundation Rescue Squadron of the Year Award for 2018. This is the first time in history that the unit managed to earn the prestigious award. The award is given to the rescue squadron that earns the highest marks in four categories: combat effectiveness, squadron accomplishments, mission events, and community relations. Units from across the Air Force (that is active duty, reserve, or National Guard) are eligible to compete and win the award.
Heidi Meisterling, a member of the board of directors of the That Others May Live Foundation, said, “It is very difficult to select a winner for this award. These rescue squadrons’ missions dictate that they be the best of the best, and it is our job as board members to determine which squadron rises above the others for that given year.”
On 79th RQS’ behalf, Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Stueck, the squadron’s director of operation, said that “our primary mission is to support combatant commanders’ objectives, and we accomplish that through combat search and rescue. While this allows us to provide for the military, we also work to give back to the community as well.”
During the competition’s timeframe (July 2017 to June 2018), the 79th RQS conducted numerous training and combat deployments domestically and overseas. One of their more prominent domestic operations was their response to Hurricane Harvey, where they performed more than 300 evacuations, saving close to 1,500 lives in Texas. Other operations include their deployment alongside a Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) to provide medical and search and rescue (SAR) support, as well as leading a joint task force that captured seven high-value targets (HVTs) and rescued two coalition troops—no more information was released about the latter deployment. With regard to community relations, the personnel from the 79th RQS organized numerous blood donations and even helped with the cleaning of a mountain pass in Arizona.
Speaking about the 79th RQS victory, Lt. Col. Stueck highlighted the one-team, one-fight attitude endemic to pararescuemen and their supporting brethren. “We gave ourselves a pat on the back, shared memories of the great things that happened the previous year, and got right back to work after receiving the news,” said Lt. Col Stueck. “It’s great that we were recognized for our efforts, but we don’t do what we do to be recognized. Every rescue squadron out there plays a huge part in our line of work and we are all part of the same team.”