Alaska National Guard rescues two hikers

Alaska National Guard hiker rescue
Photo By Lt Col Candis Olmstead | A pararescueman with the Alaska Air National Guard’s 212th Rescue Squadron assesses an injured hiker inside an Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter after two hikers were hoisted off of an Alaskan mountain, July 17, 2019. One of the hikers was injured after falling about 30 feet from a ridge into a saddle, and was unable to walk. The Alaska National Guard, in a joint effort between the Army Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 104th Aviation and the Air Guard’s 212th Rescue Squadron, responded to the incident near Penguin Peak, between Bird Creek and Girdwood in the Chugach Mountain Range. The hikers were in steep, rocky terrain at 3,600-foot. elevation, in a saddle about 200-foot-wide and 75-foot deep, with the injured hiker at the bottom, said McKinney. (Courtesy photo by crew Chief Staff Sgt Brad McKenzie)

Two hikers have been rescued from Penguin Peak in the Chugach Mountain Range in Alaska thanks to a joint effort between the Alaska National Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 104th Aviation and the Air Guard’s 212th Rescue Squadron

The two hikers found themselves in need of help after one member of the party fell about 30 feet from a ridge to a saddle about 200-foot wide and 75-foot deep and was unable to walk. The two men were in steep, rocky terrain at 3,600-foot elevation.

After receiving a 911 emergency call from the hikers, the Alaska State Troopers contacted the Alaska Rescue Co-ordination Center (RCC) with a request for assistance and the RCC responded, requesting medical evacuation support from the 2-104th’s Golf Company, Detachment 2, and pararescue assets from the 212th Rescue Squadron.

Within moments, an Army Guard UH-60 Black hawk was on the scene complete with aircrew and a flight medic, as well as pararescuemen it had picked up at the Girdwood baseball fields en route.

“On the way to Girdwood, we reconned the ridgeline and saw the hikers,” said 2nd Lt Cody McKinney, Commander of the medevac unit and pilot for this mission. “We indicated that we saw them with a wave of the aircraft, went to pick up the PJs, then headed straight to the guys on the mountain.” He added that the team were prepped and ready to go when it picked them up from the Girdwood baseball fields.

At the scene of the rescue, McKinney noted that the uninjured hiker climbed up to the adjacent peak to wave the crew down. The pararescuemen then hoisted down to the peak and descended to the injured hiker to assess his injuries and their ability to get to higher ground for extraction. It was determined that he could not walk, and both hikers were hoisted out from the saddle, with the Black Hawk at about 70 feet above ground. Once in the helicopter, the flight medic and PJs checked vitals and provided medical assessment and care while en route to Anchorage.

This incident marks the first occasion that the Alaska Army National Guard medevac unit performed a rescue mission with hoist, having previously completed various training hoist rescues, as well as other missions involving a hoist.

“We train for this and everyone in our unit is an Alaskan, and we are always ready and prepared to support state and federal missions,” said McKinney. “Being able to bring someone home is priceless.”

For this mission, the AKRCC, 212th RQS and 2-104th AVN were awarded two saves.