"Until that (withdrawal) actually happens there's still people in harm's way," said Rescue Wing Commander Steven Butow. "So we'll be busy. People get hurt and that's what we're there for. We'll rescue coalition members and Afghan nationals, anyone over there who is not a bad guy."
Butow said the Moffett-based 129th Rescue Wing was taking its turn in a rotation to serve for four months in Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa, where the U.S. military has a presence in countries like Sudan and Somalia. The wing will airlift the dead and wounded and rescue those who can't be rescued by anyone else.
Butow says no members of the 129th have been killed in recent years, even when one of their helicopters was lost in southern Afghanistan in 2009 after it was hit by enemy fire.
"It just got shot up so bad we had to abandon it," Butow said."Two of our members got purple hearts."
They will be traveling in a Lockheed C-5 Galaxy cargo plane.
"It's basically like a big warehouse," Butow said of the massive plane, which stored a Pave Hawk rescue helicopter in its belly, along with a half dozen small Polaris trucks. In the area above the cargo is seating for the 50 guardsmen getting on the plane, 70 percent of whom are reservists who live and work in Mountain View and surrounding cities, Butow said.
Some are just out of high school, Butow said. "To go out an see the world in this way, it's a real eye opener for them."