NEWS | Sept. 17, 2021

Alaska Army National Guard rescues stranded hunter

By 1st Lt. Balinda O’Neal Dresel, Joint Force Headquarters Public Affairs

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska – Medevac aircrew from the Alaska Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment, rescued a hunter stranded on a 3-by-3 ledge near Cottonwood Creek, 40 miles northeast of Anchorage Sept 15.
 
The man was unable to move up or down on the rough terrain with a 40- to 50-degree slope and required a high angle, high altitude hoist at 5,500 feet elevation.
 
The hunter alerted Alaska State Troopers at about 1:55 p.m. Sept. 15 via InReach SOS activation. Troopers asked for assistance from the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

An Army National Guard UH-60L Black Hawk medevac helicopter and crew from Detachment 2, G Company, 2nd Battalion, 211th Aviation Regiment, departed Bryant Army Airfield at JBER around 3:30 p.m.
 
The AKRCC, staffed with full-time rescue controllers in the Alaska Air National Guard’s 176th Wing at JBER, provided the rescue aircrew with the hunter’s grid coordinates.
 
“We couldn’t spot him at first because he was camouflaged in hunting gear,” said Staff Sgt. Damion Minchaca, a flight paramedic with Det. 2, G-Co, 2-211th AVN. “He used quick thinking, turning his camouflage jacket inside out to signal us down with the inside fleece’s bright orange color showing.”

Minchaca said that despite the conditions, it was a perfect hoist.
 
“Without knowing how the wind was going to push me off the mountain when lowered, the hoist operator was able to time it just right, putting me right on top of the man,” said Minchaca. “There wasn’t enough room for both of us to stand on the ledge and everything I touched dissipated.”
 
The crew hoisted them into the helicopter. After they were safely aboard, the Guard crew flew the hunter to the airport in Palmer.

“It’s vital to have some type of signaling device to break up the terrain when you are off the grid in the wilderness,” said Minchaca. “The decision to have the InReach expedited the rescue but the man’s quick thinking to signal us was vital to our success.”

For the mission, the 207th Aviation and AKRCC were awarded one save.