News: Alaska Air National Guardsmen rescue two hikers in the Brooks Range
Story by Sgt. Edward Eagerton
CAMP DENALI, Alaska—Airmen with the Alaska Air National Guard’s 210th and 212th Rescue Squadrons rescued two hikers who had sustained ankle injuries while hiking in the Brooks Range, north of Fairbanks, Alaska, June 26.
The 11th Air Force Rescue Coordination Center was notified at 4 p.m. that a distress signal from a personal locator beacon had been activated and the signal picked up by satellites operated by the U.S. Mission Control Center, located in Suitland, Md.
“The signal from the beacon goes to the United States Mission Control Center via satellite,” said Tech Sgt. Gailanne Paculba, a search and rescue controller with the 11th Air Force Rescue Coordination Center. “They then determine whose area of operation it is, and then that information is sent to the RCC responsible for that area.”
Utilizing a HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter from the Alaska Air National 210th Rescue Squadron, Detachment One, with Guardian Angels from the 212th Rescue Squadron onboard, rescuers launched from Eielson Air Force Base at 5 p.m. to the location of the hikers, approximately 235 miles away, Paculba said.
“The two hikers, both service members from Eielson Air Force Base, were hiking through the Brooks Range when they slipped down a rock wall and were subsequently injured,” Paculba explained.
“The hikers activated their beacon, which they had checked out from the 354th Fighter Wing when they filed their trip plan,” said Maj. John Morse, deputy director of the 11th Air Force RCC.
“The beacons are pretty accurate, so we had the coordinates to send rescuers to,” Paculba said. “Their beacon was GPS encoded, so when we plotted them on a map, the coordinates put them in a ravine.”
The Guardian Angels arrived on the scene at 8 p.m. and located the injured hikers in the ravine.
“Both hikers were injured with either sprained or fractured ankles from the fall,” Paculba said.
“Using a hoist, they lowered the Guardian Angels down to the hikers and then hoisted them out of the ravine,” Morse said. “The hikers were then transported to Basset Army Medical Center at Fort Wainwright at 10:30 p.m.”
“We had originally checked with the Alaska State Troopers, but they didn’t have the capability of taking this mission because of the terrain,” Paculba said. “We also spoke with the company that had dropped them off there in the first place, and they would not have been able to land a fixed wing aircraft out there.”
“We’re the only asset in Alaska other than the Coast Guard that can hoist people from rugged or mountainous terrain,” Morse said.
The Alaska Air National Guard’s 210th and 212th Rescue Squadrons were awarded two saves for this mission.