HANNAGAN MEADOW - A shoulder-fired missile launches from a terrorist's weapon, resulting in a direct hit, and an American military airplane slams into the desert floor. Miles away at an operations center, rescue crews are quickly mobilized, first with machine guns blasting from an attack airplane, and followed by Air Force pararescue jumpers floating down to the earth to extract the downed crew.
Even though this exact scene really didn't happen, the daughter of a Second Mesa woman understands these types of threats and was among 1,400 U.S. military and coalition forces, federal and state officials, at the fifth annual Angel Thunder exercise, the largest military combat search and rescue exercise in the world.
Air Force Senior Airman Trudy R. Nasetoynewa, daughter of Maude Yoyhoeoma of Second Mesa, is an aircrew flight equipment specialist with 563rd Operations Support Squadron based here. She participated in the exercise in that role.
"My job is taking care of the aircrew's equipment, loading radios for survival scenarios, loading aircraft with proper gear, and outfitting visitors with flight equipment," said Nasetoynewa, a 2006 graduate of Tuba City High School.
Angel Thunder is a two-week exercise where military rescue personnel from around the world conduct hands-on emergency response training to help them in dealing with possible catastrophic events. Training scenarios range from mass casualty and downed aircraft drills, to humanitarian and disaster relief efforts in both day and night rescue missions. Angel Thunder also included urban environment scenarios where rescue specialists encountered actors playing enemy forces or residents in realistic foreign villages as part of a rescue scene.
"We get to be a part in testing out the new CSEL (Combat Survivor/Evader Locator) radios. That gives us hands on training with the new equipment, and readies us for a real world emergency," she said.
Angel Thunder is the only Department of Defense exercise for personnel recovery training and has become the world's largest, incorporating 62 aircraft, service members from the United States and 13 international allies, along with eight federal and state agencies. The University of Arizona Medical Center in Tucson was also involved and received approximately 40 exercise mock casualties via helicopter or ambulance.
"We get more hands on time with equipment we don't use on a daily basis, keeping us current," said Nasetoynewa.
Nasetoynewa hopes she and her unit will never face a terrorist attack, but, if the unimaginable occurs, teams like hers will be able to react with a moment's notice.