JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska —Responding to a request for assistance from the Alaska State Troopers, the Alaska Air National Guard’s 176th Wing rescued two individuals early Friday morning.
Airmen with the Alaska Air National Guard’s 210th, 211th and 212th rescue squadrons saved two people who were stranded in a small boat in the flooded and icy waters of the Kuskokwim River.
An HC-130J Hercules and HH-60G Pave Hawk launched from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson a little before midnight. Utilizing night vision goggles and conducting three mid-air refuelings, the crews flew directly to the last reported location of the survivors.
Aboard the aircraft were four pararescuemen, highly trained in evacuating individuals, even in the most challenging conditions.
“They needed to be hoisted as quickly as possible because the rising flood waters washed out their home and they were adrift in the dark, ice filled river,” said Alaska Air National Guard Lt. Col. Keenan Zerkel, director of the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center.
According to Zerkel, the crews performed a hoist recovery from approximately 140 feet overhead to prevent the helicopter’s rotor wash from upsetting the boat. Once aboard, the individuals were evaluated and determined uninjured. They were transported to Aniak and released to the Alaska State Troopers. The crews then returned to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, after approximately five hours in flight.
The ongoing challenges caused by the coronavirus will not prevent the highly trained men and women of the 176th Wing Rescue Triad and the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center, from responding to individuals in distress throughout the state.
“Despite COVID-19, we maintain our ability to respond to the distress calls at a moment’s notice and have no degradation in our capabilities. We are Alaskans looking out for fellow Alaskans.” Zerkel said.
For this mission, the 210th, 211th and 212th Rescue Squadrons, and the AKRCC were awarded two saves.