JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska — Responding to a request for assistance last night from the Alaska State Troopers, the Alaska Air National Guard's 176th Wing rescued an injured hiker.
Airmen with the Alaska Air National Guard's 210th and 212th rescue squadrons rescued the distressed hiker who was stranded on Pioneer Peak. This mountain rises over six thousand feet from its base near Knik River flats, about 35 miles north of Anchorage.
An HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter launched from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. Aboard the aircraft were two pararescuemen (PJs), highly trained personnel specializing in evacuating individuals, even in the most challenging conditions.
Alaska Air National Guard Capt. Daniel Dickman at the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center knew exactly what to do to enable a quick response.
"After a quick plot of the location, we knew the 210th and 212th would be our first option due to the location and challenging terrain," said Dickman. "The hiker was in cell phone range and was able to call the Alaska State Troopers for help."
According to Dickman, cell phone coverage is not usually an option due to the remoteness of the terrain and limits of cell phone range.
Outdoor enthusiasts have turned to use two-way communication devices with global positioning system (GPS) trackers. In this situation, the individual was able to pull the coordinates from their cell phone and pass them to the Alaska State Troopers.
"The hiker's ability to pull his grid coordinates from his cell phone significantly sped up the rescue process, as the area was heavily vegetated and could have resulted in much lengthier search time," said Dickman.
The hiker suffered injuries after slipping down a ravine and was unable to walk. He was rescued at approximately 2000-feet elevation on the north side of the mountain, about a mile south of the Old Glenn Hwy.
According to Dickman, the individual was hoisted using a rescue strop—a harness used with helicopter operations—due to dense vegetation.
The survivor was transported and released to Mat-Su Regional Medical Center for care. The crew returned to base in just over an hour.
The Alaska Rescue Coordination Center would like to remind Alaskans, who traverse the wilderness with only cell phones, to be familiar with how to find coordinates within their phones.
The AKRCC operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week and is manned by highly skilled and trained Alaska Air National Guard members.
For this mission, the 210th and 212th rescue squadrons, and the AKRCC were awarded one save.