Air Guard rescue squadrons save Alaskan hunters
The 11th Air Force Rescue Coordination Center, at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson , Alaska, mobilized rescue crews to search for and rescue two hunters stranded near Bird Creek, Alaska, Dec. 31, 2011.
The 210th, 211th and 212th Rescue Squadrons traveled through Eielson AFB to rescue a father and son when, during a hunting trip, their snowmobile left them stranded 20 miles from their truck.
The two men decided to make the long trek back to the truck only to find their vehicle would not start. They made shelter in a snowmobile trailer, prepared to spend more than 36 hours in temperatures as low 35 degrees below zero before their rescue arrived.
While the two stranded hunters braved the elements, family members reported their loved-ones as missing and gave Alaska State Troopers their last known position.
The RCC mobilized an HH-60 G Pave Hawk with a crew of four as well as an HC-130 P/N King with a crew of seven at 12:30 a.m. Both aircraft had pararescuemen and combat rescue officers, also know "guardian angels."
Several hours later, between 6 and 6:30 a.m., the rescue was underway with an HC-130 flying ahead to provide aerial support.
According to Maj. Glenn Ott, a 210th Rescue Squadron HH-60 G Pave Hawk co-pilot, Guardsmen use every available resource to help bring survivors home safely.
"Once you trigger that switch for the (Air) National Guard to come help, we go full bore," Ott said. "We are going to give every effort we can to help those survivors."
It was not long before the hunters were found exactly where their family had said they would be -- near their vehicle. The two survivors were bundled up with furs and were said to have brought appropriate gear for the trip.
"It is a busy time of the year," said Master Sgt. Chris Robertson, a 212th Rescue Squadron pararescueman. "We flew in to the last known location when we saw a tent on a snow trailer. They waved at us through the darkness and they looked like mushers in the Iditarod with bundled up faces and frosted with ice."
The two individuals were pretty tough and well prepared, Robertson said. When asked how they were doing, the survivors had no complaints, simply asking for a jump for their truck.
"We can't jump you with the helicopter," Robertson said.
Robertson told the two hunters they would have to come to Eielson AFB where they could make arrangements.
"They sucked it up," he said. "With no injuries and only a few icicles on their beards, they were moving well, showing no signs of frostbite. To them, it just seemed like no big deal.
"You could tell these guys know how to survive in the arctic," he added.
The 210th, 211th and 212th Rescue Squadrons rely on the total force -- the use of active duty, Guard and Reserve people and assets -- to achieve successfully coordinated search and rescue missions.
Article by Airman 1st Class Yash Rojas, 354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs