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Combat Search and Rescue

Aired May 26, 2007 - 14:30   ET


ALEX QUADE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They rescued survivors of Hurricane Katrina.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I came literally from Afghanistan and rolled half way around the world to Hurricane Katrina relief in about a 28 hour period.

QUADE: But combat search and rescue is their mission. Pilot T.C. worked the very first water rescue of the Iraq War.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was the F-18 that went down in Lake Karbala. The other one was Marine 46 was flying down the Tigris River and it hit wires and flipped over and went in the water.

Who would have thought when we left for the war that we would be doing water rescues in the desert? But the PJs train for that stuff.

QUADE: PJs or pararescue men like Mark.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We do have dive missions going on in Iraq, humvees int to the canals. Helicopter crashes into the canals.

QUADE: PJs like Kyle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People don't realize that water is just one of those things that, you know, somebody is going to find their way into it and it's going to be bad. You know, helicopters will go down in it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thirty seconds.

QUADE: In a C-130, the PJs tell me they train constantly based on these war realities.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have got to make sure that no matter what the winds are you are going to be able to get to the target or to the survivor that you're going after.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Five seconds. Green lights, out!

QUADE: P.J. Mays explains.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep your eyes out.

QUADE: As they deploy a hard duck, a fully inflated zodiac raft. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Errors as little as five, 10, 15 degrees means that we don't make it. Especially on the water. If we don't make it to a survivor, we can be one, two, 300 meters apart and in the middle of a raging storm you are never going to get to them. That will be the last time you saw them was when you got out of the airplane.

QUADE: At sea level, PJ Mark shows me how they handle a mass casualty situation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rescue, rescue, spider 71.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you are doing a water mission, you are surrounded by something that could make things terribly, terribly wrong.

QUADE: From helicopters, the PJs drop bundles, boats, bails (ph) assembled. They also use Arcs (ph), advanced watercraft. Translation, two seat jet skis.

Then, that (ph) goes in. The scenario, 13 crew men scattered in the water after their aircraft went down. They gather the survivors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get another guy, all right?

QUADE: Triage them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are checking to make sure that they're OK as far as physically, they're not injured, suffering from hypothermia.

QUADE: And PJ Kyle says hoist them out according to the severity of their injuries.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You might have to restrain them just to keep them out of the water. And as you can tell, when the winds is beating on you like that it can get tough.

QUADE: In hostile territory, the PJs also watch for threats.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of folks experienced that, especially in Vietnam.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have a weapon on you, you have to -- I guess you could shoot while you are hoisting. That's a bad day if you are having to shoot from the hoist.

QUADE: Then, my turn. As a reporter imbedded with the unit whose aircraft went down, PJ Will makes sure I'm not hurt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was all jumped up in my suit and ready to go in, stabilize them. Get a blood pressure. Get IV lines and whatnot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bring those guys in first?

QUADE: While PJs Kyle and Nate are on their way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Airspeed is 60 knots. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We brought around the helicopter, two PJs on it. Located her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Down in the water. One PJ out, one PJ up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They come into a hover over the top of us, so then it gets real stormy. That's a hurricane there for you.

QUADE: I'm gulping for air, but PJ Nate reassures me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sometimes folks get a little bit combative in a situation like that. They get very desperate and they just start fighting you. So you have to be careful of how you handle the survivor.

It helps too, to tell them what's going to happen. You say, look, don't worry about it. I will get you through it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger. Continue forward, 25.

QUADE: PJ Kyle hoists me up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As we're going up, I'm just making sure that you are inside the secure -- with the device, that you are not flipping out, making sure the hoist cable isn't getting wrapped around you so I'm trying to make sure that's not getting wrapped around anybody's neck. The helicopter is drifting and can get wrapped all around.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hold your hover.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trying to make sure that you are not going to hit your head on the underside of the aircraft.

QUADE: Their job doesn't end once we're in the helicopter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, it's just the beginning. Now we have to figure out if there's anything wrong with you, and if there is we have to fix it. Or at least stabilize it.

QUADE: This isn't just a drill. The next time we see this ...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are just getting word into CNN.

UNIDENTFIIED MALE: Another Marine helicopter made an emergency landing in a lake in al Anbar province. There were 16 on board.

QUADE: Think of them. Alex Quade, CNN, Key West.




QUADE: A simulated covert operation is under way. Pararescuemen or PJs get ready to jump halo, high altitude, low open. Using the darkness and stealth, PJ Mark sets up the drop zone for his unit to drop into.

UNIDENTFIIED FEMALE: In a war zone, they may not have anybody who's doing this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In real life, there wouldn't -- it wouldn't be that luxury. Someone on the ground who can see you.

QUADE: The pilots, A-10s, they are up there trying to find a good drop zone?

UNIDENTFIIED MALE: Same as they will come down and take a look at the threat in the area and then the jumpmaster will decide and call it good.

QUADE: PJ Nate is jump master.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Combine darkness with a lot of noise. You happen to be jumping with oxygen, you have got a mask over so you can't talk to each other. So you have to rely on those hand and arm signals.


QUADE: PJs are coming out of the plane. What are they looking for?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are looking to maintain team integrity. Keeping the team together, that's most important.

QUADE: Behind enemy lines ...


QUADE: The PJs mission, extract injured special operatives after an IED attack. But then contact.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just came on. Real life scenario, we would be laying lead down range.

QUADE: Smoke means enemy fire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you are not nervous, there's something wrong. That's when Murphy comes and gets you.

QUADE: Things change.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jolly, 1322 fire mission, over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You guys were with us. You kind of saw how we moved. We moved as stealthily as possible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three hundred meters, troops in the tree line. Over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that a new heading to the left? They are shifting left.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Murphy's law takes over and things can go bad really fast.

QUADE: Matt is a CRO, Combat Rescue Officer who didn't want his face shown since he provides command on tactical missions.

UNIDENTFIED MALE: We immediately made contact.

QUADE: Which is a nice way of saying ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got ambushed, correct.

QUADE: So they call in jolly, helicopter support.


QUADE: The PJs are the eyes on the ground for the guns in the sky.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm hearing them.

QUADE: Using handheld lasers, they mark or lace targets for jollies to destroy.

UNIDENTIFIED AMEL: You are telling the helicopter where you want him to shoot. You are the ice eyes his trigger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jolly 31, be advised, we are moving. Let's fall back!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kill the enemy and press on to our objective, to take care of the IED victims.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to sanitize the area, we're going to press on with the scenario.

QUADE: In training, Murphy's Law focuses the PKs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to really have your head screwed on.

QUADE: In war zones, Murphy's Law means danger or death.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twelve men of the parachute regiment went on patrol, the ground underneath them sewn with antipersonnel mines.

QUADE: PJ Kyle led this rescue in Afghanistan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had 12 patients down in the mine field, some missing limbs. You could actually see the mines within inches of the survivors. We hoisted right down on top of the survivors, literally, we were almost landing on top of them. They were all very critical patients.

QUADE: The PJs' medical expertise, what they are known for kicked in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It can get hectic in the back of the helicopter. You are trying to do the correct thing. The best thing for the patients, if need be, we might take a hit ourselves. That's just part of the job. QUADE: PJ Matt also told me that in Iraq at the start of the war.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At any minute, something could go wrong and a bad day that somebody else is having that you are there to pick up, that could turn around and be your bad day.

QUADE: PJ Chuck learned that in Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was the first guy off the helicopter. I lost my way. And hit the ground at about 50, 60 feet up and broke four vertebrae in my back and both my feet were pretty well shattered.

QUADE: Chuck is recovering and wants to rejoin his team.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm itching to get back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are putting their lives on the line.

QUADE: Their boss, Brigadier General Doug Rayburn of Air Combat Command.

B. GEN. DOUG RAYBURN, AIR COMBAT COMMAND: Very tough situations. Obviously, in combat situations they don't worry about that. They worry about getting the individual safe and returned back home.

QUADE: Like PJ Kyle's team in that Afghan mine field.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our actions out there that day saved a lot of lives.

QUADE: They also recovered the body of a British paratrooper.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: During the whole operation, you never once doubted your training. You knew that everything was going to turn out all right and successful.

QUADE: Which is why the PJs train like they fight -- hard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those coordinates take us back to the east.

QUADE: To overcome certain war zone situations, PJ Mark tells me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to be -- I like to use this, rigidly flexible.

QUADE (on camera): With the training that you all have and being ready for every contingency.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's difficult, but that's our goal. We are trying to be ready for anything that could pop up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are moving out. We are going to parallel this road for about a click.

QUADE (voice-over): The PJs who dealt with popups tonight went on a landing zone for helicopter extraction. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You three out on the first aircraft, all right?


QUADE: Combat rescue officer Matt just back from Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are forced to operate under stressful conditions. You need to find the clarity to get yourself out of that situation. My biggest thought is just take care of the guys and get back out there.

QUADE: Alex Quade, Avon Park Air Force Range, Florida.




QUADE: Combat search and rescue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can roll into anything because we train in so many different scenarios.

QUADE: Each based on real war zone events. Urban rescues.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rescue, rescue.

QUADE: Water rescues.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone is willing to give their life, sacrifice to try to save someone else's.

QUADE: Ground rescue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two aircraft coming in to pick us up was one of the best sites I've ever seen in my life.

QUADE: And specials, covert missions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Troops in the tree line.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of this is geared towards getting back one person.

QUADE: Like A-10 pilot, call sign Chalks. His heads up display or cockpit radio seen now for the first time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is some breaking news coming out of CENTCOM.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The tank buster, the one that was seen or like it over the skies of Baghdad this morning has crashed.

QUADE: Chalks, hit by a surface to air missiles during shock and awe. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was pop. I mean, it hit. It was like big hand was in the sky and swatted the airplane.

QUADE: His wing man, Donno.

UNIDENTFIIED MALE: I have never seen an airplane do this before but he was actually flying sideways, the airplane rolling over inverted, straight into the ground. And it makes a big explosion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: CENTCOM saying the pilot did eject from the plane before it crashed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's wow, you know, pull the handles and, you know, it's gone. The canopy pops off. There's a big pop and then the rocket motor ignites and you're out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't know if he was alive or dead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You hit the ground ow, you know, hard.

QUADE: Behind enemy lines, Chalks hears gunfire and yelling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Initially they will go to the plane but now they see the footprints across the field. I thought to myself, oh, (EXPLETIVE DELETED) because now they are going to know where to come looking for me.

QUADE: His SERE, survival, evasion, resistance and escape, training kicks in and what should he do when he comes under fire? More on his story later.

His training and that of the PJs or pararescuemen is key to survivors coming home. PJ Will takes us along on an immediate action drill. Translation, enemy contact.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Down to the rear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When we did take fire, we know we're going to hit the ground, take cover as quickly as possible and break contact.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was screaming and yelling saying, no, go left, go right, straight, go back and I throw smoke and gauge.

QUADE: Something PJ Mark has seen for real which I asked him about as his PJs keep training. How important is that feeling that if things get really bad you are watching each other's backs?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it helps you get a little bit closer to the edge, knowing there's someone waiting, dedicated just to recover you, when things go wrong. I think it allows you to move forward just a little bit more.

QUADE: Which brings back to A-10 pilot Chalks, hiding, waiting for extraction. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The guy just ejected. We have to go.

QUADE: Rescue helicopter pilot, call sign TC.

UNIDENTFIIED MALE: If someone came over and said, that others may live. That's it. We're going. Rock on. We're out of here.

QUADE: U.S. soldiers fighting nearby found Chalks and alerted TCs team.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I told PJs if you have to, you take them by force.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He came busting in. He said, we are out of here. He almost -- he almost grabbed me. I was like, hold on a second. He was like, no, we have to go. I seen the PJ. It's literally a relief, that vulnerability. You think, oh God, I'm going to get tortured, exploited. It evaporates.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some say the pilot has been saved for rescue.

QUADE: But not before getting shot at again, this time in TC's rescue helicopter or jolly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of a sudden, beep, beep, beep, boom, things start falling off the airplane and you're jinking and jiving again.

UNIDENTFIFIED MALE: The battle doesn't end just because you get to sit down in the jolly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The only thing that was going through my mind is, oh, Lord, everything that happened to me today, I'm going to die in the back of the helicopter with these guys.

QUADE: Chalks' wing man, Donno.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When he got in the helicopter I was just so happy to see him, just to see my best friend come back was, was amazing.

QUADE: Chalks and others alive today because of combat search and rescue teams. Like these soldiers whose Chinook crashed in a sandstorm in Iraq. The cousin of former U.S. Vice President Al Gore whose convoy was attacked. In Afghanistan, a Navy SEAL hiding in a village after an ambush and shootout injured his team. And British paratroopers in a minefield. All critical.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's the price of a life? In my opinion is how important this is. We don't want to leave anybody behind.

QUADE: Including their own.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The search and rescue operation is under way.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A Chinook helicopter crashes in rocky terrain. The U.S. military reports eight soldiers are dead, 14 wounded.

QUADE: Among them, one PJ killed, Air Force Tech Sergeant Scott Duffman. And two PJs critically injured. PJ Dan, training for Afghanistan, was one of those hurt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will put our own lives on the line. We will live up to our motto, "That others may live."

QUADE: While Dan's recovering his fellow warriors are on alert everywhere U.S. troops are fighting and they are ready to help back home, from Hurricane Katrina to Mt. Hood.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A rescue effort is under way as we speak for three climbers.

QUADE: to standing by for every shuttle mission, to rescue or recover astronauts.

RAYBURN: Wherever people can go, we can get there and get them out.

UNIDENTFIIED MALE: When someone is having their worst day, we need to be having our best day.

QUADE: Combat search and rescue men, "So that others may live."

RAYBURN: The bottom line is they're coming home.

QUADE: Alex Quade, CNN, Moody Air Force Base, Georgia.



WHITFIELD: Every day all over the world, there are people working to make life a little better for others who really need some help. Each week, we are shining the spotlight on some of those every day folks whose efforts really have made a difference. We call them "CNN Heroes." Today, a courageous woman struggling to save lives. Lydia Cacho Ribeiro, is today's "CNN Hero."


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One more time looking at me.

LYDIA CACHO RIBEIRO, RUNS BATTERED WOMEN SHELTER: Mexico is a macho country and if you understand that, you understand everything else. It's a cultural thing. Owning your wife and your kids is a cultural issue, and we are working on changing cultural views and that takes a long, long time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I would come home from work and he would say didn't I tell to you come at a certain time, and he would slap me or kick me. He even did it in front of the children.

CACHO RIBEIRO: The med (ph) work that is helping women be rescued from violence and even for death is our institution, we are their friends, their sisters, their mothers. We are here to tell them that we are not alone.

My name is Lydia Cacho Ribeiro. I am human rights advocate. We created a shelter for battered women, and this shelter is a high security shelter. When a woman comes to the center, we give them free services, social work, medical services, psychological help. They get trained for work, and the kids go to school. They are rebuilding their own lives.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): They rescued from where I was living. They have done so much for me after I had given up on myself.

CACHO RIBEIRO: We just decided that there was something needed, that was far beyond talking about violence and all the things. We had to do something about it. We have success. Last year the local congress passed a law in which violence against women is a crime.

It saddens me that it's seen as an extraordinary task because I believe that everybody else could do the same thing and Mexico would be very different.


WHITFIELD: And now we finish the hour with images from Iraq. A simple ceremony, one repeated more than 3,400 times. It honors the men and women in uniform who gave their lives.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... this is about family. This is about life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Scripture reading complete



WHITFIELD: And I'm Fredricka Whitfield. I'll be back at 4:00 Eastern when the NEWSROOM continues but now travel with wounded soldiers and the medics and pilots who bring them home from battle.

CNN's SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT, "Wounded Warriors" begins right now.


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