JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska – The Alaska National Guard prepositioned a hoist-capable UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter in Bethel April 27 as part of the State’s effort to prepare for disaster response during the 2021 spring flood season, considering the potential threat of flooding along the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers.
A Black Hawk and aircrew from the 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment, Alaska Army National Guard, arrived in Bethel April 27 and will remain until the risk for flooding subsides. While stationed in Bethel, the crew will continue to train on their federal mission and remain ready to respond to any requests for support from civil authorities through the State Emergency Operations Center.
Each spring, the River Watch program renews a partnership between the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and the National Weather Service, ongoing for more than 30 years. The Alaska-Pacific River Forecast Center and DHS&EM conduct aerial observations of rivers prone to ice jam flooding. They provide flood warnings and assist communities responding to flood emergencies.
The first River Watch team is planning to begin surveillance flights on the Upper Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers the first week of May.
The Guard has an aviation facility in Bethel and for many years, one or two helicopters have been stationed there. However, more than half of the unit’s aircraft and aircrew are currently deployed overseas for a nine-month deployment in the U.S. Central Command Area of Operations in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve.
A Black Hawk aircrew is equipped and prepared to respond expeditiously to a rapid event that may require evacuation.