JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska —Airmen with the Alaska Air National Guard’s 210th, 211th and 212th Rescue Squadrons rescued a man in Gates of the Arctic National Park, July 21.
The man had been rafting down the Kobuk River, northwest of Bettles, when his raft overturned, according to Capt. John Romspert, a controller with the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center.
“He was hiking and rafting using a pack-raft,” said Romspert. “He got himself into some big water and flipped over.”
Despite flipping his raft, the hiker managed to save his gear, Romspert explained. Among the gear the hiker packed was a personal locator beacon, which he used to contact the National Park Service.
“He had all of his gear, and when he looked at the remaining portion of the river he had to go through, he decided that he didn’t have the right equipment to continue down the river,” he said. “He was in a bad spot, and there was no way for him to get out.”
After contacting the National Park Service, the NPS concluded that they would need a helicopter to extricate the man from his location.
“The National Park Service didn’t have a helicopter, so they contacted us asking for assistance,” Romspert said.
The Air Guard accepted the mission and dispatched an HC-130 King aircraft from the 211th Rescue Squadron and an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter from the 210th Rescue Squadron, each with a team of Guardian Angels from the 212th Rescue Squadron.
Guardian Angel teams are highly trained medical personnel made up of a pararescue specialist and a combat rescue officer who specialize in conducting high-risk rescue missions.
The personal locator beacon that the stranded hiker used was a DeLorme satellite messenger—a more recent innovation that enabled him to transmit text messages to NPS personnel, Romspert explained. As well, the beacon sent out a signal, giving rescue assets a location to hone in on.
“The beacon leaves little tick marks wherever the location of the device is, so they flew right out to that location and found him by the river,” he said.
Using the hoist capabilities of the Pave Hawk, the rescue crew pulled the hiker up into the aircraft and flew him back to Bettles. The man was then released to NPS park rangers to get medically reevaluated and released.
“He was okay,” said Romspert. “He wasn’t injured. He was well prepared, and that helped his situation.”
The 210th, 211th and 212th Rescue Squadrons were awarded with one save for this mission.