JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska – 176 Wing operations and maintenance groups have been honored with the 2021 Jolly Green Rescue Mission of the Year award.
Over Memorial Day weekend, Guardsmen from the 176th Wing generated and conducted 30 sorties, culminating in over 120 flight hours during two high altitude rescue missions that saved 13 people in Wrangell-St . Elias National Park and Reserve.
“The complexity of the weekend was unprecedented as inclement weather in the park tested our equipment, required a joint force response, and demonstrated the ability of our air rescue team to navigate difficult weather conditions and terrain.” said the Alaska Air National Guard Senior Master Sgt. Evan Budd, superintendent of the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center.
On May 29, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park Service asked the AKRCC for help after local assets were unable to fly safely through heavy cloud cover and whiteout conditions to reach a team of mountaineers with two members in pain High altitude sickness at nearly 14,000 feet on the Klutlan Glacier, near Mount Bona.
The AKRCC sent a 211th Rescue Squadron HC-130J Combat King II and a 210th Rescue Squadron HH-60G Pave Hawk along with a Guardian Angel team from the 212th Rescue Squadron of two Para-rescuers and a special mission operator from the 210th RQS.
Guides from St. Elias with the group of climbers moved the expedition safely to 10,000 feet, where they set up a shelter, surrounded by snow berms, to protect them from the wind. For three nights, the team continuously rebuilt berms, shoveled a clearing for the helicopter, provided field medical care to the injured, and relayed information via satellite phone to rescue teams.
Hours after the start of the Mount Bona mission, NPS requested additional resources for a second rescue after a Cessna 182 aircraft crashed in inclement weather at 6,500 feet on Mount Hawkins.
Rescue assets over Mount Bona confirmed that the winds were too strong and the clouds too thick to land the HH-60 safely. The AKRCC therefore redirected the aircraft to Mount Hawkins and sent a second Pave Hawk and Guardian Angel team to Mount Bona.
“Generating these sorties took all hands on deck, as weekend alert maintenance personnel were called in to repair and inspect nearly all of our fleet for ongoing and long-term rescue operations. scope, ”said Chief Master Sgt. Eric Chester, superintendent of the 176th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. “Our maintenance teams generated more than 250% of the normal capacity of our aircraft. “
During routine training and alerting operations, the 176th AMXS has two or three team leaders ready to generate an HC-130 and an HH-60, the pre-flight taking about three hours and the post-flight four hours or more.
To support the simultaneous rescue missions, the 176th AMXS generated two HC-130s and four HH-60Gs with only 10 crew chiefs and two maintenance managers available. One of the generated helicopters was in the final stages of a major maintenance event, which resulted in the reassembly of the aircraft and the maintenance of more than 30 no-fly anomalies.
“It took the entire weekend to rebuild the helicopter, but it was back to a fully mission capable status Monday morning and ready to take the alert for the final mission sortie,” Chester said. “This is the key because we ran out of all the other resources we had, and that was the last line we had to fall back on.”
In addition to the generation of aircraft, flight equipment personnel from the 176th Operations Support Squadron aircrews worked diligently to pack parachutes, rescue equipment and medical supplies as the condition of patients on Mount Hawkins was not known at the time of shipment.
In early May 31, a weather break on Mount Hawkins enabled the HH-60 to travel to the crash site, hoist a team of guardian angels 150 feet down, and safely transport the two people from the mountain.
Meanwhile, the weather on Mount Bona continued to deteriorate, so the guides in St. Elias requested the evacuation of their entire group of 11.
The AKRCC coordinated with the Army National Guard to dispatch a heavy airlift capable CH-47F Chinook from the 38th Command of the Alaska Army National Guard Troops, 207th Regiment of aviation.
The HH-60 returned to JBER while the HC-130J remained over Mount Bona so the crew could provide safe passage and weather updates to the Chinook. On June 1, the CH-47 sailed safely in the weather conditions to transport 11 people and more than 1,000 pounds of equipment from the Klutlan Glacier.
“This was the first high-altitude heavy airlift for our Alaska-based Chinooks,” said Lt. Col. Michele Edwards, Alaska National Guard aviation officer for the newest aircraft in the Army National Guard fleet.
More than 75 personnel from 10 different workshops across 176 Wing participated in these rescue missions.