NEWS | Sept. 9, 2021

Alaska Air National Guard Airmen partner with NPS to rescue bear-mauling victim

By Capt. David Bedard 176th Wing Public Affairs

Alaska Air National Guardsmen of the 176th Wing saved a hunter mauled by a bear Sept. 8 in the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.

The hunter activated a two-way communication device SOS beacon. The National Park Service received notification of the beacon and requested assistance from the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center.

Alaska Air National Guard Capt. Brent Kramer, AKRCC senior controller, said the center requested assistance from the 176th Wing with Airmen of 210th, 211th and 212th Rescue Squadrons responding from Eielson Air Force Base and joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson on two 210th RQS HH-60G Pave Hawks.

The Eielson AFB rescue detachment HH-60 was conducting a routine training mission in the vicinity of Talkeetna when the 210th RQS crew and 212th RQS pararescuemen (PJs) were notified.

The Eielson AFB Pave Hawk reached the scene first, and a two-man PJ team hoisted in to treat and package the patient.

While the PJs were helping the hunter, the helicopter rendezvoused with a 211th Rescue Squadron HC-130J Combat King II to air-to-air refuel before returning to the hunter to hoist the PJs, the hunter and an accompanying member of the hunting party.

The hunter was brought to Northway where he was transloaded to the HC-130 for transport to JBER.

At JBER, the hunter was transloaded to the JBER-based 210th RQS HH-60 for transport to the Providence Alaska Medical Center and released to medical personnel.

Alaska Air National Guard Senior Master Sgt. Evan Budd, AKRCC superintendent, underlined the importance of safety during the hunting season.

“Having a two-way satellite communication device was critical to the best-possible outcome in this un-fortunate situation,” Budd said. “When you are outdoors, be ‘bear aware,’ and take measures to protect yourself.

For the operation, 210th RQS, 211th RQS, 212th RQS and the AKRCC were awarded one save.