ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England — The relocation of the 56th and 57th Rescue Squadrons to Aviano Air Base, Italy, slated to be complete by the end of June 2018, is currently underway.
The move, initially announced in November 2015, aims to establish a more strategically and economically suited location for the rescue squadrons.
Over the next several months, the rescue squadrons will prepare to send their five HH-60G Pave Hawks, Guardian Angel Weapons Systems and nearly 350 personnel to their new duty station.
To ensure a smooth transition, the squadrons have each established a small detachment at Aviano AB.
More personnel will begin transitioning in February 2018, with the main body movement occurring between April and early June. Additionally, as of this month, incoming RQS Airmen will go directly to Italy.
The Pave Hawks and other equipment are projected to remain here until the beginning of June 2018, at which point they will travel to their new duty station.
Both RQS commanders said the move will bring new training opportunities and position the squadrons closer to the current theater of operations.
“We are definitely going to miss RAF Lakenheath and all things the local community offers,” said Lt. Col. Jose Cabrera, 57th RQS commander.
“On the other hand, we’re looking forward to the Aviano move because it will improve our ability to respond to contingencies in Northern Africa and in the European continent,” he said.
“So far this year, we conducted three separate training weeks in Italy working with our Italian counterparts,” Cabrera said. “These events enhanced our relationship with the host nation and increased our access to training ranges in Italy.”
“We found ourselves already feeling at home amongst like-minded coalition training partners,” said Lt. Col. Patrick Dugan, 56th RQS commander. “This is a unique opportunity to build upon our 48th Fighter Wing legacy.”
Airmen from the 57th RQS recently participated in Ares Shadow at Aviano, Aug. 8-11, a 48th Fighter Wing-led personnel recovery exercise, which also involved Airmen from the 86th Airlift Wing, the 352nd Special Operations Wing, and members of the Italian armed forces.
Last month, members of the 56th RQS also visited their future host wing to establish procedures and routines, and engaged with regional partner nation armed forces.