Alaska National Guard Tests Arctic Search and Rescue Capabilities
CAMP DENALI, Alaska—Alaska National Guardsmen performed arctic search and rescue (SAR) training May 2-9, testing skills and equipment during Operation Ardent Sentry 2012.
Ardent Sentry is an international exercise focused on providing defense support to civil authorities and used to validate existing plans, policies, and procedures, including federal, state and regional response plans. Events took place in Alaska, North Dakota, Oregon, Texas, Connecticut and Nova Scotia.
Here in Alaska as part of the exercise scenario, Joint Task Force Alaska sent pararescuemen from the Alaska Air National Guard’s 212th Rescue Squadron and paratroopers from the Alaska Army National Guard’s C Company, 1st Battalion, 297th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade to respond to a major aircraft crash in a remote area of the state with passengers onboard.
“This training is really important to make sure that such complicated rescues are successful,” said Senior Airman Robert Bowler, 212th Rescue Squadron, Survival Evasion Resistance Escape specialist. “It’s a low frequency event, but it’s high risk because of the kind of environment we’re operating in and the complex nature of getting equipment and personnel to that kind of remote site.”
Upon notification, both the pararescuemen and the paratroopers reported to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER) where a C-17 Globemaster III and C-130 Hercules were standing by loaded with necessary personnel and heavy equipment required for an arctic SAR mission. After a short flight, pararescuemen and paratroopers leapt from the aircraft and arctic SAR equipment was dropped to assist simulated casualties.
“The Long Range Surveillance Company has a mission to support the 212th Rescue Squadron out of JBER and provide them manpower in the event of an arctic search and rescue,” said 1st Sgt. Michael Grunst, C Company, 1st Battalion, 297th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade. “So we coordinated efforts to train together and work in a collaborative environment to respond to a maritime or inland incident in the Arctic Circle. We jumped in with them [212th Rescue Squadron] and set-up a casualty collection point near a notionally crashed C-130 with 30 survivors. From there, we started providing ground support to the pararescuemen by setting up tents, heaters, generators, and critical infrastructure so they could concentrate on their task of triaging, treating and evaluating patients for further care.”
Within a couple of hours of their boots hitting the ground, the pararescuemen had located, triaged and treated all of the injured victims who were scattered throughout the woods.
“Joint exercises are critical,” Grunst said. “When you’re in Iraq or Afghanistan or any number of places, you’ve got Air Force, Army, Marines, Navy, even Coast Guard. It’s a joint effort, a team effort, and by coordinating and working together, it makes us more efficient when we respond to situations like this in the future.”
Upon completion of the arctic SAR portion of the exercise, the paratroopers prepared all of the equipment to be sling-loaded off the site by an UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter.
“It was a really unique opportunity, it was the first time we’ve ever sling-loaded an Argo [amphibious all-terrain, off-road vehicle] up here in Alaska,” Grunst said. “Figuring out where the tie-down points are, where the strength in the frame is, figuring out the link-count, and making sure the load is balanced, centered and flies correctly are critical to safety. Getting that done, working out the kinks, and watching the communication between the Air Force and Army non-commissioned officers was definitely a wonderful experience; the training is going to help us both in our state and federal missions.”
Additional images can be seen below this article in the image gallery.