Air Force Featured Stories

Alaska air guardsmen rescue snowmachiner

  • Published
  • By Sgt. Marisa Lindsay
  • Alaska National Guard Public Affairs
Airmen with the Alaska Air National Guard's 210th, 211th and 212th Rescue Squadrons rescued a 65-year-old man who was injured while snowmachining near the Tanana River, approximately 24 miles southwest of Fairbanks, March 8.

Alaska State Troopers notified the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center around 10 p.m. Saturday after Troopers relayed a cellphone call from the distressed.

According to the RCC, Alaska State Troopers and LifeMed were unable to execute the mission because of the terrain and time restrictions.

The rough terrain and remote location of the individual made the situation a good candidate for the Alaska National Guard's unique hoisting and air-refueling capabilities.

The Alaska Air National Guard's 176th Wing accepted the mission and launched an HC-130 "King" refueling aircraft from the 211th Rescue Squadron and an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter from the 210th Rescue Squadron. Each had on board a team of Guardian Angel rescue personnel from the 212th Rescue Squadron at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

Because of the poor visibility and the lack of a GPS locating device, the snowmachiners used a fire and flashlight in order to signal the helicopter.

"The HH-60 helicopter had to try multiple routes to get through the passes due to low ceilings and poor visibility," said Lt. Col. John Morse, the deputy director for the 11th Air Force Rescue Coordination Center, Alaska Air National Guard. "The helicopter had to be refueled by the HC-130 a few times in flight before the team was able to find the survivor, hoist him to safety and get him to a medical facility."

The man was stabilized and hoisted onto the helicopter before being transported and arriving at the Fairbanks Memorial Hospital at 8:30 a.m. Sunday.

"It's important that people realize how important having a personal locator beacon is with the extreme weather and terrain that's experienced in Alaska," Morse said. "Have a trip plan, let someone know where you are going and when you'll be back and be prepared to spend multiple days out in the elements in the event your machine breaks down or you get lost."