34th WPS celebrates 20th anniversary

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Mikaley Towle
  • 99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
A small room slowly fills with people trickling in and big, boisterous laughs permeate the air. Officers and Airmen in flight suits and civilians who used to don the uniform are standing in groups and eating food as old friends greet each other and new acquaintances are made.

This was the scene at the Desert Oasis Club on Nellis Air Force Base June 25 during the 34th Weapons Squadron's 20th anniversary celebration and reunion.

The mission of the 34th WPS is to train and develop technical experts in the HH-60G Pave Hawk and to create integration specialists that are able to employ across the joint force spectrum under the umbrella of the U.S. Air Force Weapons School.

"The purpose of this 20th anniversary reunion is to honor our past graduates, leaders and flyers to include the students set to graduate on June 27," said Lt. Col. Joe "Krusty" Alkire, 34th WPS commander. "We want people to have a chance to share stories and commiserate with each other, in a formal setting where people haven't seen each other in a while, in some cases even 20 years."

Retired Col. Tim "Ghandi" Healy, 34th WPS commander from 1999-2001, was one of many in attendance for the reunion.

"Having been at the beginning and seeing what they're able to do today and the level of skill and sophistication is unbelievable," said Healy. "It is an amazing story of an organization driving for improvement class after class after class. When you have the luxury to step back and come back and see what they're doing, it's phenomenal, the level of professionalism and skill. I think it's why we've been successful in combat over the last 24 to 26 years."

Over the years, many changes have been made to the curriculum being taught at the 34th WPS.

"The biggest change that occurred in recent years is the emphasis on joint force integration," said Alkire. "It's been present in varying degrees, but the weight of effort we put into it now is far different than what it was even 10 years ago.

"We are really pushing our students into a joint force level initiative with a knowledge base and skill set to ensure they know how to employ, teach, instruct, and how to execute in a joint force environment. In today's world, that's a reality."

The squadron, Healy said, was born out of necessity.

"After Desert Storm, when Air Force rescue had not been present in sufficient numbers or capability to rescue those that could have been rescued, the Air Combat Command commander at that time, Gen. Michael Lowe, brought the combat rescue mission into ACC," said Healy. "He knew that the home of tactical mission planning and expertise and excellence was here at Nellis AFB."

Healy went on to add, "They did that initially through an interim organization known as the combat rescue school, which eventually disbanded and pushed various functions like operational testing and advanced training that the weapons school gives, into appropriate organizations."

Eventually, the disbandment of the combat rescue school led to the training mission for the HH-60G division in the USAFWS.

"This was a direct descendent of that decision to fix a critical mission area after Operation Desert Storm where it was perceived that we could have done much better," said Healy. "I feel that this organization gives so much and helps prepare the current warfighting force so well for what they have to face in combat, and we've had a lot of combat since 1991 when this idea was first germinated until today.

"The success that the Air Force combat rescue has had is directly attributable to all the hard work of many people over many years here at the Weapons School.  Not just the HH-60 squadron, but all the squadrons have contributed to that."

Both commanders agreed that having the 20th anniversary reunion was a good way for the old and new members to meet and bridge the gap to help ensure continuity and comradery are not lost.

"It helps the current force understand that there is a long continuity of folks who support them, believe in what they do, understand how hard it is, the sacrifices that they make and that people are there for them," said Healy.