JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska – Alaska Air National Guardsmen of the 176th Wing evacuated two patients this week in separate incidents during extreme weather conditions throughout much of Alaska.
The first week of the year, National Weather Service regional weather advisories ranged from freezing rain to hurricane-force winds to blizzard whiteouts.
Alaska Air National Guardsmen of 210th, 211th and 212th Rescue Squadrons medevaced a woman suffering a fall at Goodnews Bay about 115 miles south of Bethel Jan. 3 and rescued a man in medical distress at Tununak 120 miles west of Bethel Jan. 5.
Alaska Air National Guard Lt. Col. Christen Brewer, Alaska Rescue Coordination Center director, said Kanakanak Community Health Clinic officials requested assistance for the woman who fell.
The 176th Wing launched a 210th RQS HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopter and a 211th RQS HC-130J Combat King II rescue aircraft Dec. 30. Both aircraft had pararescue (PJs) Airmen of 212th RQS onboard. But severe weather forced the aircraft to return.
On Jan. 3, the 176th Wing issued a waiver, allowing the helicopter to fly around the turbulent weather.
The HH-60 landed at Goodnews Bay, disembarking two PJs who stabilized the patient and loaded her onboard the Pave Hawk for evacuation to the Bethel Airport, where she was moved to the HC-130 for an expedited flight to Anchorage.
The crew of the HC-130 transported the woman to JBER. She was transferred to an ambulance and taken to the Alaska Native Medical Center.
Late the next evening, Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation officials requested assistance for the man in distress requiring medical evacuation.
The 176th Wing launched an HH-60 and an HC-130 with PJs on both aircraft early Jan. 5, landing the HH-60 at Tununak Airport. Two PJs stabilized the patient before flying him on the Pave Hawk to Bethel Airport. He was moved to the HC-130, transported to JBER, and taken to Providence Alaska Medical Center by ambulance.
“Unfortunately, Western Alaska was experiencing extreme weather patterns for several days, and it delayed civilian and military response to the medevac requests,” Brewer said. “The 176th Wing rescue triad was watching the weather closely and was ready to respond as soon as a weather window allowed.”
For these operations, 210th RQS, 211th RQS, 212th RQS and the AKRCC were awarded two saves, one for each mission.