By SOF Editor on Fri, 01/08/2010 - 12:18pm
Army and Air National Guardsmen saved 48 lives here in Alaska in 2009 and assisted 12 others to safety during another busy year for the Alaska National Guard.
The 11th Rescue Coordination Center, the Alaska representative responsible for most aeronautical search and rescue cases in Alaska, released its end of year statistics Jan 2. It lists annual search and rescue data for the state.
Since 1994, Alaska National Guardsmen have supported RCC calls with search and rescue assets, flying 19,400 mission hours, while logging 1,718 saves and 720 assists.
Supporting an unforgiving land that is twice as large as the next largest state, Texas, with a road system that covers a relatively small area of the state, Alaska National Guardsmen provide a sense of security in a place where too often the National Guard represents the last chance for survival.
"Our Alaska National Guardsmen are called on to perform rescues in the worst conditions and because of their expertise, many Alaskans have received the emergency medical support they've desperately needed," said Brig. Gen. Thomas H. Katkus, adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard.
Requirements for search and rescue in Alaska have increased over the last two years after the Department of Army's Military Assistance to Safety and Traffic or MAST program ended in 2008. Started in 1973, MAST provided valuable training to Soldiers and life saving benefits to communities throughout interior Alaska, with about two rescue calls per week. This void created additional demands on Alaska National Guard resources, but they continue to meet the challenge.
"Medical evacuation support continues to increase for Alaska National Guardsmen after the MAST program ended and is critical to the citizens of Alaska living in our rural communities," Katkus said.
This support came amid another busy year of deployments around the world for the Alaska National Guard, including Air National Guard deployments to Afghanistan and Army National Guard deployments to Kosovo and Iraq.
"Whether it's here in Alaska supporting search and rescue efforts or defending our country in the Global War on Terrorism, Alaska Guardsmen are highly trained and recognized for their exceptional professionalism," Katkus said. "And for 48 people in Alaska in 2009, they're glad we're ready and always there."