Alaska Air Guard rescues 2 hikers at Mount Watchman

  • Published
  • By David Bedard
  • 176th Wing

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska – Members of the Alaska Air National Guard’s 176th Wing rescued two hikers Aug. 5 at Mount Watchman near Eklutna Lake north of Anchorage.

Alaska Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Katelyn Magnuson, Alaska Rescue Coordination Center (AKRCC) controller, said one hiker had non-life-threatening injures. The hikers notified Alaska State Troopers using an inReach handheld satellite communication device, and troopers forwarded a request for assistance to the AKRCC.

The AKRCC asked for help from the 176th Wing, which dispatched a 210th Rescue Squadron HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter carrying two 212th Rescue Squadron pararescuemen (PJs).

Aircrew of the 210th RQS are trained in day or night personnel recovery operations in challenging weather and environmental conditions. PJs of the 212th RQS are search-and-rescue experts and paramedics with advanced mountaineering skills.

The aircrew located the two hikers at 6,000 feet above sea level on steep terrain with loose gravel. The 210th RQS special mission aviator hoisted the PJs to the hikers. PJs medically assessed the hikers before packaging them for hoist into the helicopter.

The PJs continued to render medical aid to the injured hiker aboard the helicopter en route to the Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage, where they released the hikers to hospital medical personnel.

“If they didn’t have an inReach, the hikers would have been unable to call for help,” Magnuson said, because they were out of range of the cell network. “Because the hikers thought ahead, and Guardsmen were ready, the HH-60 was able to rapidly launch and render assistance in a timely manner.”

For this rescue, 210th RQS, 212th RQS and AK RCC were awarded two saves.