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Alaska Air National Guard Rescues Five in Three Incidents

  • Published
  • By David Bedard,
  • 176th Wing

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska — Alaska Air National Guardsmen of the 176th Wing rescued five people involved in three incidents from July 13-16 in Southcentral Alaska.

All of the incidents happened close enough to JBER to allow 210th Rescue Squadron HH-60G Pave Hawks to fly unrefueled to the distressed individuals’ locations where 212th Rescue Squadron Guardian Angels – highly trained pararescue paramedics – could provide aid throughout the evacuation.

The Alaska Rescue Coordination Center at JBER requested and received assistance from the 176th Wing for all three missions.

A few days of sunny weather during a rainy month in the region gave way to a steady downpour lasting through the weekend. Alaska Air National Guard Lt. Col. Michael Jordan, 176th Operations Group search and rescue duty officer during the three rescues, said it’s important to have good communications, have a plan conveyed to associates, and prepare for the conditions that can quickly change for the worse.

“Even during the summer in Alaska, when it’s raining like this, you can still get hypothermia,” Jordan said.

Alaska Air National Guard Maj. Landon Bryan, AKRCC senior controller, said the persistent rain also had the effect of swelling area streams and flooding trails, limiting freedom of movement in places like Crow Pass.

The first mission involved a small Aviat Husky single-propeller aircraft that crashed July 13 near Matanuska Glacier about 70 miles northeast of Anchorage with a pilot and passenger onboard.

The Husky’s 406 Emergency Locator Transmitter automatically sent a signal to the AKRCC following impact. Bryan said the 406 ELT had a current registration, which listed how the owner also carried a two-way satellite communication device. Bryan was able to contact the pilot and communicate via text messages.

The HH-60G crew located the wreckage, and Guardian Angels evacuated the two uninjured occupants back to Anchorage, where they were released.

Shortly after the close of the first July 13 mission, another was opened when the Alaska State Troopers requested assistance after receiving an emergency call reporting an injured hiker near Butte, about 40 miles northeast of Anchorage.

The Pave Hawk crew located the hiker, where Guardian Angels assessed, treated and packaged the patient for hoist on a litter into the helicopter for transport to the Mat-Su Regional Hospital for release to medical personnel.

The Alaska State Troopers again asked AKRCC for assistance on July 16 after receiving a personal locator beacon signal at Crow Pass, about 50 miles east of Anchorage. The HH-60 crew searched through thick foliage and located the two distressed hikers.

The HH-60G special mission aviators paid out the hoist cable 100 feet to infiltrate Guardian Angels onto the scene. They medically assessed the hypothermic hikers before hoisting them to the helicopter for evacuation to an Anchorage area hospital.

210th RQS, 212th RQS and the AKRCC were credited with five saves for the three missions.