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Recovery effort saw mission challenges
FORWARD OPERATING BASE GILLASPIE, Alaska -- Troops construct a tent, Nov. 22, which served as a medical clinic for the 175 service members working at Site Raptor, near Cantwell, Alaska. (Photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Joshua Garcia/JBER PAO)
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Recovery effort saw mission challenges

Posted 12/3/2010   Updated 12/3/2010 Email story   Print story


by Air Force Staff Sgt. Joshua Garcia

12/3/2010 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- An F-22 Raptor, from the 525th Fighter Squadron, 3rd Wing, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, crashed on Nov. 16 in a remote location in central Alaska.

The aircraft lost contact with air traffic control at 7:40 p.m. Alaska time, while on a nighttime training mission. Search and rescue teams discovered the wreckage of the F-22, Nov. 17.

In response to the incident, two teams were set up.

The first team was made up of personnel specialized in various areas of expertise, ranging from Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape Airman and Tactical Air Control Party Airmen to Security Forces, Bio-Environment and, Crash/Recovery. The team also included key personnel that would be the interim safety inspection board. The team's goal is secure and recover as much of the crash site, Site Raptor, as possible and also to collect any information leading up to the crash, and pass it on to the safety inspection board which will arrive later.

"Site Raptor, has two distinct missions going right now. The (interim) safety inspection board is in charge of gathering information about the crash," said Air Force Lt. Col. Tim Gillaspie, 773rd Logistics Readiness Squadron commander, "The second team aids them by securing and excavating critical pieces of the airframe from the site."
This group left Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson via a C-130 Hercules, to Eielson Air Force Base, where they were then flown in by the U.S. Army on two UH-60 Black Hawks and a CH-47 Chinook to the actual crash site.

Upon landing at the site personnel immediately started working their areas of expertise. As the inspection board went to investigate ground zero the bio-environmental team took air samples prior ensuring the area was safe to enter, security forces set up a perimeter and an entry control point as the only access into and out of the site.

Air Force SERE and Army mountaineers started erecting 10-man tents for a base camp.
These tents would become home for majority of the team.

"These guys are all experts in their respective career fields," Staff Sergeant Reid Beveridge, Air Force SERE, "... mine and the Army mountaineers job is to take care of them in the wilderness of Alaska, that way they can complete their mission."

The interim safety board team continued to gather information from the crash site over the following days. After this information was gathered, the crash/recovery team was allowed to enter the site and start excavating crash remains from the area. This part of the process is the most time consuming and with weather conditions may take months to complete.

"We're ready to bunker down until mission complete." Gillaspie said.

The second team left on Nov. 20 via motor-convoy; to set up a staging point/support base to transport supplies and personnel to and from the actual crash site. The stage point, Forward Operating Base Gillaspie, is approximately 20 miles from the crash site.
Supplies and personnel are transported in via helicopter support or by snow-cats - both provided by the United States Army.

FOB Gillaspie provides the support needed to accomplish the mission out at the Site Raptor.

"Our mission is the complete sustainment of Site Raptor," says Gillaspie.

Air Force and Army troops have built the base from the ground up at an old hunting lodge. Civil engineers set up tents for housing and built a Tactical Operating Center that can contact both Site Raptor and the Emergency Operating Center on JBER. The 673d Communications Squadron set up DSN lines for official use, the 673d Force Support Squadron serves hot meals daily. The 673d Medical Group set up a clinic. The 3rd Maneuver Enhancement Brigade provides transportation to and from Site Raptor.

Every support function available that can be mobilized has been set up at the FOB. With a constant flow of inbound/outbound people, some who are only transient to the actual crash site, and others who are replacements for those who set up the FOB, FOB Gillaspie houses about 175 service members.

"We have Army and Air Force working together to provide supplies and communications with Site Raptor..." Gillaspie said, "...we have a good team here, and everybody is doing a good job."

FOB Gillaspie is still considered a remote area due to its location; the closest town is 70 miles away. The FOB has made arrangements with the town to allow small groups of personnel to be bused into town to get a shower and wash laundry. These "Morale Trips" last only a day. Just enough time to relax and get cleaned up before heading back to the mission.

As a complete joint operation, FOB Gillaspie has the personnel and the capability to ensure that Site Raptor's mission is completed in a safe and timely manner.

Troops will rotate in and out of the FOB with their home base to ensure the mission can be completed.

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