LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan -- Soldiers and aviators train to avoid catastrophic events, but when they happen, Soldiers from the F Company "Pathfinders," 2nd Battalion, 10th Aviation Regiment, Task Force Knighthawk, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, stand ready, around the clock, to respond."Our mission is personnel recovery and personnel extraction," said Capt. Chris Gage, F Company commander. "We train to extract pilots and Soldiers from aircraft and up-armored vehicles."Shortly after their arrival at Forward Operating Base Shank, Afghanistan, all three Pathfinder pla- toons from F Company conducted personnel recovery training May 10-11 to certify their capabilities.
"This training helped to validate us to assume the Combined Joint Task Force mission of personnel recovery for Regional Command - East," Gage said.When a Soldier is trapped in a vehicle or aircraft, special equipment is often required to cut and lift the vehicle's armor to extract the trapped person. Pathfinders are proficient at using this equipment.
During their recent training, the Pathfinders were alerted to a simulated downed aircraft in which an aviator was trapped.Within 15 minutes, the Pathfinders had donned their equipment, moved out to a waiting UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, and were in the air.The helicopter dropped the Pathfinders off at the site of the downed aircraft that had been secured by ground forces.After assessing the situation, they went to work, cutting away parts of the aircraft that were preventing the aviator from getting out.Simultaneously, the unit's medics assessed the aviator's health status and, dependent on accessibility, treated injuries requiring immediate attention.Once the aviator was extracted, a call was made for the Pathfinders to be picked up. As the platoons waited for their helicopter, Soldiers pulled what they could salvage from the downed aircraft, gathered their equipment and maintained security. Medics continued to treat the aviator and prepare him for transport.For the dozens of Pathfinders who make up the three platoons that participated in the training, the scenario was very realistic, as none of them were aware of the training beforehand."We were alerted as any normal mission would happen and were assessed on all aspects of our response, from initial alert to completion of the mission," said Sgt. Tucker C. White, a Pathfinder team leader with the company.Training such as this will be conducted throughout the deployment to maintain proficiency in personnel recovery skills that were developed over months of training at Fort Drum. Conducting this training within a week of arrival ensures that the Soldiers, their unit and Combined Joint Task Force -- 101 leaders know they are capable of assuming the personnel recovery mission in eastern Afghanistan.The specialized company put their skills to use in its previous deployment to eastern Afghan-istan, when 10th CAB's Pathfinders extracted a foreign soldier whose arm was pinned beneath an overturned armored vehicle, as a result of a detonated roadside bomb.Using specialized equipment, the Soldiers were able to lift the vehicle with air bags just enough to extract the injured soldier and get him to medical treatment.