Staffed by people trained and experienced in SAR operations, the AFRCC operates 24 hours a day, every day of the year. The center has extensive telephone capabilities including a direct tie-in to the Federal Aviation Agency's alerting system and the U.S. Mission Control Center. In addition to the Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking (SARSAT) information, the AFRCC computer system contains vast resource files that list federal and state organizations, which can conduct or assist in SAR efforts throughout the contiguous United States. These files include Mexican and Canadian SAR coordinating agencies.
There are many reasons to initiate a SAR mission. These include searches for lost hunters, hikers, or Alzheimer's patients as well as the source of an emergency locator transmitter signals and missing aircraft. AFRCC missions accomplish far more than searching. The center frequently dispatches rescue assets to provide aid and transportation to people needing medical attention in remote or isolated areas, for emergency organ or blood transportation, or for medical evacuations, when civilian resources are not available.
Any person or agency may provide initial notification of potential SAR situations to the AFRCC. The center, through coordination with federal, state, and local officials, then gather the information required to determine the type and scope of response necessary. Historically, the AFRCC resolves two thirds of the potential SAR missions without committing federal resources.
After authorities or AFRCC people verify an actual distress situation, the AFRCC selects, briefs, and launches an appropriate federal SAR force. This may include Civil Air Patrol, U.S. Coast Guard, or other Department of Defense (active duty, national guard, or reserve) assets, as needed when available. State agencies can be contacted to obtain assistance of state, local, or civil SAR resources within their jurisdiction. The AFRCC chooses the rescue force based on availability and capability of forces, geographic location, terrain, weather conditions, and urgency of the situation.
Throughout AFRCC missions, the center serves as the communications hub, providing coordination and assistance to on-scene commanders or mission coordinators in order to recover the mission's objective in the safest and most effective manner possible. AFRCC people also work innovative programs, which include monitoring emergency locator transmitter signals detected by a network of satellites. These systems help to reduce the critical time required to locate and recover persons in distress.
Besides actively coordinating actual SAR missions, the AFRCC formulates and manages SAR plans, agreements, and policies throughout the continental United States. Additionally, it presents a Search Management Course taken on the road to Civil Air Patrol (CAP) wings throughout the contiguous United States. The AFRCC designed this course to produce qualified Incident Commanders thus improving national SAR capability. The AFRCC also assigns instructors to the USAF branch of the National SAR School at the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve Training Center, Yorktown, Va. The instructors teach the Inland Search and Rescue Class throughout the United States and at many worldwide military locations. This joint school is designed for civilian and military personnel from federal, state, local, and volunteer organizations, all of whom are responsible for SAR mission planning.
Prior to 1974, the Air Force divided the continental United States into three regions, each with a separate rescue center. In May of that year, the Air Force consolidated the three centers into one facility at Scott AFB, Ill. This provided better coordination of activities, improved communications and economy of operations, and standardized procedures. The newly formed AFRCC permitted operations with fewer people, while creating a more experienced staff. In 1993, the AFRCC relocated to Langley AFB, Va., when Air Combat Command assumed responsibility for Air Force peacetime and combat SAR.
Since the center opened in May 1974, missions have resulted in more than 12,834 lives saved.
Point of Contact
Air Combat Command , Public Affairs Office
115 Thompson St., Suite 211; Langley AFB, Virginia 23665.
DSN 574-5014 or (757) 764-5014; e-mail: email@example.com