920th Rescue Wing

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920th Rescue Wing
Members of the 920th Rescue Wing conducting freefall training over Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
Active 11 February 1963–Present
Country  United States
Branch  United States Air Force
Type Wing
Role Rescue
Size 1,500 personnel
Part of AFR Shield.svg  Air Force Reserve Command
Garrison/HQ Patrick Air Force Base, Florida
Engagements Persian Gulf War

Iraqi no-fly zones

War on Terror

Decorations Outstanding Unit ribbon.svg AFOUA
Colonel Jeffrey L. McCrander[1]
920th Rescue Wing emblem 920th Rescue Wing.jpg
Aircraft flown
Multirole helicopter HH-60G Pave Hawk
Transport HC-130P/N Hercules

The 920th Rescue Wing (920 RQW) is part of the Air Reserve Component (ARC) of the United States Air Force. The wing is assigned to the Tenth Air Force (10 AF) of the Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC).

The 920 RQW is home stationed at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida with additional Geographically Separated Units (GSUs) consisting of the 943d Rescue Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona; the 304th Rescue Squadron at Portland Air National Guard Base, Oregon; and the 920th Aerospace Medicine Flight at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. If mobilized to active duty with the Regular Air Force, the 920 RQW is operationally gained by the Air Combat Command (ACC).


Headquartered at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, the 920th Rescue Wing is the Air Force Reserve Command's premier combat search and rescue (CSAR) unit. The wing consists of over 1,500 Airmen, trained and equipped to locate and recover U.S. Armed Forces personnel during both peacetime and wartime military operations. Additional missions have included manned spaceflight support, such as providing rescue support for NASA Space Shuttle missions during that program's operation; providing search and rescue support for civilians who are lost or in distress; and lending support in humanitarian and disaster relief operations with the wing's HH-60G Pave Hawk and HC-130P/N Hercules aircraft.

In addition to its aircraft squadrons in Florida and Arizona, the wing also has three additional squadrons in Florida, Arizona and Oregon consisting of Combat Rescue Officers (CROs) and enlisted Pararescuemen, the latter known as PJs. While many CROs and PJs enter the 920 RQW from the active duty Air Force, others are accessed directly into the Air Force Reserve. CRO and PJ Candidates must pass a physical assessment test which has about 15% success rate. An average of eighty people Air Force-wide enter the 2-year training program each year.[2]


  • 920th Operations Group (920 OG)
39th Rescue Squadron (39 RQS) HC-130P/N
301st Rescue Squadron (301 RQS) HH-60G
308th Rescue Squadron (308 RQS) CRO/PJ
920th Operations Support Squadron (920 OSS)
304th Rescue Squadron (304 RQS) (GSU at Portland Air National Guard Base, Oregon) CRO/PJ
305th Rescue Squadron (305 RQS) HH-60G
306th Rescue Squadron (306 RQS) CRO/PJ
943rd Aerospace Medicine Squadron (943 AMDS)
943rd Maintenance Squadron (943 MXS)
943rd Mission Support Flight (943 MSF)
943rd Operations Support Flight (943 OSF)
  • 920th Maintenance Group (920 MXG)
920th Maintenance Squadron (920 MXS)
920th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron (920 AMXS)
920th Maintenance Operations Flight (920 MOF)
  • 920th Mission Support Group (920 MSG)
920th Mission Support Squadron (920 MSS)
920th Security Forces Squadron (920 SFS)
920th Communications Flight (920 CF)
920th Logistics Readiness Flight (920 LRF)



Combat and Contingencies:

NASA Manned Space Flight Support:

Disaster Relief:


The 920th Rescue Wing (RQW) traces its history and lineage to two distinct organizations within the Air Force Reserve.

Following the mobilizations in 1961 and 1962 for the Berlin Crisis and the Cuban Missile Crisis, Continental Air Command (ConAC) realized that it was unwieldy to mobilize an entire wing unless absolutely necessary. Their original Table of Organization for each Wing was a wing headquarters, a Troop Carrier Group, an Air Base Group, a Maintenance and Supply Group, and a Medical Group. In 1957, the troop carrier group and maintenance and supply groups were inactivated, with their squadrons reassigned directly to the wing headquarters – despite the fact that many wings had squadrons spread out over several bases due to the Detached Squadron Concept dispersing Air Force Reserve units over centers of population.

To resolve this, in late 1962 and early 1963, ConAC reorganized the structure of its reserve Troop Carrier Wings by establishing fully deployable Troop Carrier Groups and inserting them into the chain of command between the Wing and its squadrons at every base that held a ConAC troop carrier squadron. At each base, the group was composed of a material squadron, a troop carrier squadron, a tactical hospital or dispensary, and a combat support squadron. Each troop carrier wing consisted of 3 or 4 of these groups. By doing so, ConAC could facilitate the mobilization of either aircraft and aircrews alone, aircraft and minimum support personnel (one troop carrier group), or the entire troop carrier wing. This also gave ConAC the flexibility to expand each Wing by attaching additional squadrons, if necessary from other Reserve wings to the deployable groups for deployments.

As a result, the 920th Troop Carrier Group was established with a mission to organize, recruit and train Air Force Reserve personnel in the tactical airlift of airborne forces, their equipment and supplies and delivery of these forces and materials by airdrop, landing or cargo extraction systems. The group was equipped with C-123 Provider transports for Tactical Air Command airlift operations.

The 920th TCG was one of three groups assigned to the 455th TCW in 1963, the others being the 918th Troop Carrier Group at Dobbins Air Force Base, Georgia, and the 919th Troop Carrier Group at Memphis Municipal Airport, Tennessee.

The 920th in its previous pre-rescue mission iteration trained for and performed military airlift missions from 1963 to 1965 and 1973 to 1975, initially with C-123 Provider and later with C-130 Hercules aircraft as part of the 445th Military Airlift Wing and 459th Tactical Airlift Wing, both at Memphis ANGB and at its subsequent base of Keesler AFB, Mississippi. Later redesignated as the 920th Weather Reconnaissance Group, it then flew weather reconnaissance missions with WC-130 Hercules aircraft, including flying into hurricanes from 1976 to 1983 as part of the 403rd Rescue and Weather Reconnaissance Wing at Keesler.

Air Rescue

The second organization, which has an even longer history, serves as the basis for the wing's current mission. That unit, the 301st Rescue Squadron (301 RQS), was established on March 9, 1956 as the Air Force Reserve's first air rescue squadron. This original squadron, which still exists as an operational flying squadron within the current wing, was initially based in a military cantonment area at Miami International Airport prior to relocating to nearby Homestead Air Force Base in 1960.

The squadron's legacy includes the first Air Force Reserve rescue in January 1957; participating in NASA's manned space flight rescue contingency operations for Project Mercury, beginning with Freedom 7, the first manned Mercury launch in 1961; rescuing 137 South Florida residents during the 18-day humanitarian operation following Hurricane Andrew in August 1992; and on one day in March 1993, saving 93 elderly residents from rising flood waters at their Tampa area retirement community. The 920th routinely searches the Caribbean for downed aircraft and retrieves critically ill sailors from ships hundreds of miles out in the Atlantic.

One of the 920th Rescue Wing's HC-130P Hercules "Combat King" aircraft refuels one of the wing's HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters.

Most recently, airmen of the 920th Rescue Wing, with aid from the U.S. Coast Guard, made a daring rescue of 28 British seamen from their sinking merchant vessel 270 miles off the east coast of Florida. In 2005, the wing's HC-130 and HH-60 flight crews recorded more than 1,000 lives saved during disaster operations along the Louisiana/Mississippi/Alabama Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The wing's flight crews fly in weather conditions which often test man and machine or at night using night-vision goggle (NVG) technology. The 920th completes arduous, over-water rescues which frequently require the unit's HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters to be mid-air refueled by their HC-130P Hercules aircraft — a capability not shared by the U.S. Coast Guard's HH-60J and MH-60T Jayhawk helicopters.

The wing is also fully integrated into the Air Force's Air and Space Expeditionary Force (AEF) construct and previously deployed to the former NAS Keflavik, Iceland on a routine basis in support of NATO operations, and to various locations in Southwest Asia (to include combat zones in Iraq and Djbouti) in support of Operation Desert Storm, Operation Southern Watch, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Originally constituted as the 301st Air Rescue Squadron on March 9, 1956, the organization was redesignated as the 301st Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron on January 18, 1966. It was renamed the 301st Air Rescue Squadron for a second time on April 1, 1990 and then redesignated as the 301st Rescue Squadron on February 1, 1992.

In August 1992, the squadron evacuated all flyable aircraft assets from its then-home station of Homestead Air Force Base pending the landfall of Hurricane Andrew. Temporarily relocating to Patrick Air Force Base following the destruction of Homestead AFB, the unit permanently changed its home station to Patrick AFB in 1993 rather than returning to the redesignated Homestead Air Reserve Base.

Originally established as an amphibious aircraft unit with the HU-16 Albatross, the 301st eventually became a combined fixed-wing and rotary-wing organization, operating both the HC-130 Hercules and HH-3E Jolly Green Giant helicopter until 1991, when the HH-3Es were replaced by the current HH-60G Pave Hawk. In 1997, five years after the unit's 1992 relocation to Patrick AFB, the HH-60G portion of the unit was retained as the 301st Rescue Squadron, while the HC-130P/N portion of the squadron was established as a separate unit designated as the 39th Rescue Squadron (39 RQS). Together, they formed the nucleus of the newly created 920th Rescue Group, subordinate to the Air Force Reserve's 939th Rescue Wing at the then-Portland Air Reserve Station, Oregon. In 2000, the 939th was redesignated as the 939th Air Refueling Wing and began to divest itself from the rescue mission and convert to KC-135R Stratotanker aircraft. As a result, in 2003 the 920th Rescue Group became the 920th Rescue Wing (920 RQW) and the parent unit for all combat search and rescue organizations in the Air Force Reserve Command.

HC-130s of the 39th Rescue Squadron, 920th Rescue Wing, on the ramp at their home station of Patrick AFB

In 2004, the 920 RQW's Regular Air Force associated command was briefly reassigned from Air Combat Command (ACC) to Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC). This was done as part of a USAF and DoD Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA) initiative to merge all USAF combat search and rescue assets (CSAR) and USAF special operations fixed-wing and rotary-wing airborne infiltration/exfiltration, helicopter air refueling, and combat search and rescue/recovery assets into a single command. This initiative was applied to all Total Force CSAR assets, i.e., Regular Air Force, Air Force Reserve Command and Air National Guard. However, command and control issues unique to the special operations community made it apparent that this was not a preferred arrangement, and in 2006, all CSAR assets in AFSOC were reprogrammed by DoD and USAF, including the 920 RQW, to align under ACC as the gaining command in the Continental United States (CONUS) and under Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) in the case of those CSAR units and assets in the Alaska Air National Guard.

File:920 Rescue Group hurricane exercise.png
920th Rescue Wing/301st Rescue Squadron HH-60G Pave Hawk during Hurricane Katrina-like flood training

In 2005, the wing provided extensive rescue and humanitarian support along the U.S. Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina, this less than 48 hours following the return of a significant portion of the wing's assets from an AEF deployment to Djibouti. Most recently (FY 2008), three of the 920th Rescue Wing's subordinate squadrons, the 301st Rescue Squadron (301 RQS), the 39th Rescue Squadron (39 RQS) and the 308th Rescue Squadron (308 RQS), led military units engaged in civilian rescue and relief for recent hurricane-related disasters in southeast Texas, Louisiana, and parts of Mississippi to include Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi. Both Hurricanes Hannah and Ike wreaked havoc upon these states, with the 301 RQS providing support with HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters, the 39 RQS with HC-130P Hercules aircraft and the 308 RQS providing Pararescueman (PJ)/Guardian Angel support.


  • Established as the 920th Troop Carrier Group, Assault and activated on 15 January 1963 (not organized)
Organized in the Reserve on 11 February 1963
Discontinued and inactivated on 15 December 1965
  • Redesignated 920th Tactical Airlift Group on 2 March 1973
Activated in the Reserve on 25 April 1973
Redesignated 920th Weather Reconnaissance Group on 1 January 1976
Inactivated on 1 November 1983
  • Redesignated 920th Rescue Group on 1 April 1997
Activated in the Reserve on 15 April 1997
Redesignated 920th Rescue Wing on 1 April 2003






 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

  1. Biographies : Colonel Jeffrey L. Macrander. Newpreview.afnews.af.mil. Retrieved on 2013-09-18.
  2. Moody, R. Norman (10 October 2010). "Parachute jumpers' journey begins at Patrick". Melbourne, Florida: Florida Today. pp. 1A.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 920th Rescue Wing – 943 Rescue Group. 920rqw.afrc.af.mil. Retrieved on 2013-09-18.
  4. http://www.920rqw.afrc.af.mil/units/index.asp
  5. http://www.920rqw.afrc.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123312783

External links