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JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska — Soldiers with the Alaska Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion of the 207th Aviation Regiment rescued two men Thursday night who had departed from Sleetmute Tuesday morning and were two days overdue.
The men were traveling on snowmachines, and had told family the general direction they were headed, but had not prepared to be out overnight.
“They did not have food, water or additional clothing, and no way to call for help,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Paul Jones, one of the UH-60 Black Hawk pilots on the mission.
The Alaska State Troopers contacted the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center to request help searching for the missing men. The AST had located a snowmachine and foot tracks while searching the area with a fixed wing aircraft. The tracks appeared to end at a heavily wooded remote area because they could not been seen from the altitude of the aircraft.
The AK RCC requested support from the 1-207th, the crew departed Bethel just before 4 p.m., and they picked up the Alaska State Trooper in Sleetmute who had spotted the tracks earlier.
They flew about 15 miles south, and at a lower altitude, were able to see the tracks that continued for over a mile through the trees until they saw smoke in the distance.
“We got about a quarter mile from them when we saw smoke from a signal fire that the men started,” said Jones. “Upon reaching them, we saw both men standing and waving their arms next to a tree that they had caught on fire to get our attention.”
The helo crew found a nearby hilltop to land on, and hiked downhill to find the men and help them back to the aircraft.
“They were surprisingly in good health with no major injuries. They were tired, sore and hungry, but otherwise in good shape,” said Jones.
The men were transported to Sleetmute and released to AST.
The Alaska Rescue Coordination Center recommends that people take a 406 personal locator beacon with them when venturing out into the wilderness, even on short day outings. Upon manual or automatic activation, it gets 100 percent of the attention of RCC personnel and directs them to the beacon’s location within minutes.
For this mission, the 1st Battalion of the 207th Aviation Regiment was awarded with two saves.