Preparing for the worst through practice: Exercise Arctic Chinook 2016

A volunteer role-playing as a casualty has makeup applied to simulate an injury during exercise Arctic Chinook, near Kotzebue, Alaska, August 23. Arctic Chinook is a joint U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Northern Command sponsored exercise which focuses on multinational search and rescue readiness to respond to a mass rescue operation requirement in the Arctic. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt, Edward Eagerton/released)

A volunteer role-playing as a casualty has makeup applied to simulate an injury during exercise Arctic Chinook, near Kotzebue, Alaska, August 23. Arctic Chinook is a joint U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Northern Command sponsored exercise which focuses on multinational search and rescue readiness to respond to a mass rescue operation requirement in the Arctic. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt, Edward Eagerton/released)

Pararescuemen from the 212th Rescue Squadron, Alaska Air National Guard, and Alaska Army National Guardsmen, move a simulated casualty to their Arctic Sustainment Package during exercise Arctic Chinook, near Kotzebue, Alaska, August 23. Arctic Chinook is a joint U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Northern Command sponsored exercise which focuses on multinational search and rescue readiness to respond to a mass rescue operation requirement in the Arctic. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt, Edward Eagerton/released)

Pararescuemen from the 212th Rescue Squadron, Alaska Air National Guard, and Alaska Army National Guardsmen, move a simulated casualty to their Arctic Sustainment Package during exercise Arctic Chinook, near Kotzebue, Alaska, August 23. Arctic Chinook is a joint U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Northern Command sponsored exercise which focuses on multinational search and rescue readiness to respond to a mass rescue operation requirement in the Arctic. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt, Edward Eagerton/released)

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski talks with pararescuemen from the 212th Rescue Squadron, Alaska Air National Guard, while she visits a patient reception area at the Ralph Wien Memorial Airport in Kotzebue, Alaska, Aug. 24, during exercise Arctic Chinook. Arctic Chinook is a joint U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Northern Command sponsored exercise which focuses on multinational search and rescue readiness to respond to a mass rescue operation requirement in the Arctic. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt, Edward Eagerton/released)

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski talks with pararescuemen from the 212th Rescue Squadron, Alaska Air National Guard, while she visits a patient reception area at the Ralph Wien Memorial Airport in Kotzebue, Alaska, Aug. 24, during exercise Arctic Chinook. Arctic Chinook is a joint U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Northern Command sponsored exercise which focuses on multinational search and rescue readiness to respond to a mass rescue operation requirement in the Arctic. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt, Edward Eagerton/released)

Participants of exercise Arctic Chinook load equipment onto an HC-130 King aircraft from the 211th Rescue Squadron, Alaska Air National Guard, at the Ralph Wien Memorial Airport in Kotzebue, Alaska, Aug. 24. Arctic Chinook is a joint U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Northern Command sponsored exercise which focuses on multinational search and rescue readiness to respond to a mass rescue operation requirement in the Arctic. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt, Edward Eagerton/released)

Participants of exercise Arctic Chinook load equipment onto an HC-130 King aircraft from the 211th Rescue Squadron, Alaska Air National Guard, at the Ralph Wien Memorial Airport in Kotzebue, Alaska, Aug. 24. Arctic Chinook is a joint U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Northern Command sponsored exercise which focuses on multinational search and rescue readiness to respond to a mass rescue operation requirement in the Arctic. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt, Edward Eagerton/released)

Pararescuemen from the 212th Rescue Squadron, Alaska Air National Guard, triage simulated casualties inside their Arctic Sustainment Package tent during exercise Arctic Chinook, near Kotzebue, Alaska, August 23. Arctic Chinook is a joint U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Northern Command sponsored exercise which focuses on multinational search and rescue readiness to respond to a mass rescue operation requirement in the Arctic. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt, Edward Eagerton/released)

Pararescuemen from the 212th Rescue Squadron, Alaska Air National Guard, triage simulated casualties inside their Arctic Sustainment Package tent during exercise Arctic Chinook, near Kotzebue, Alaska, August 23. Arctic Chinook is a joint U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Northern Command sponsored exercise which focuses on multinational search and rescue readiness to respond to a mass rescue operation requirement in the Arctic. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt, Edward Eagerton/released)

An HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter from the 210th Rescue Squadron takes off from the tundra after loading simulated casualties during exercise Arctic Chinook, near Kotzebue, Alaska, August 24. Arctic Chinook is a joint U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Northern Command sponsored exercise which focuses on multinational search and rescue readiness to respond to a mass rescue operation requirement in the Arctic. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt, Edward Eagerton/released)

An HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter from the 210th Rescue Squadron takes off from the tundra after loading simulated casualties during exercise Arctic Chinook, near Kotzebue, Alaska, August 24. Arctic Chinook is a joint U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Northern Command sponsored exercise which focuses on multinational search and rescue readiness to respond to a mass rescue operation requirement in the Arctic. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt, Edward Eagerton/released)

A pararescueman from the 212th Rescue Squadron, Alaska Air National Guard, treats a simulated casualty during exercise Arctic Chinook, near Kotzebue, Alaska, August 23. Arctic Chinook is a joint U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Northern Command sponsored exercise which focuses on multinational search and rescue readiness to respond to a mass rescue operation requirement in the Arctic. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt, Edward Eagerton/released)

A pararescueman from the 212th Rescue Squadron, Alaska Air National Guard, treats a simulated casualty during exercise Arctic Chinook, near Kotzebue, Alaska, August 23. Arctic Chinook is a joint U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Northern Command sponsored exercise which focuses on multinational search and rescue readiness to respond to a mass rescue operation requirement in the Arctic. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt, Edward Eagerton/released)

KOTZEBUE, Alaska -- More than 1,000 personnel from the U.S. Coast Guard, Alaskan Command, Alaska National Guard, state and local agencies, tribal organizations and Royal Canadian Air Force participated in Exercise Arctic Chinook, a joint USCG and U.S. Northern Command-sponsored exercise on the U.S. State Department approved list of Arctic Council Chairmanship events.

Exercise Arctic Chinook's scenario was an adventure-class cruise ship with approximately 200 passengers and crew that experiences an incident which degrades to become a catastrophe event requiring the need to abandon ship near Kotzebue with a mix of minor and major injuries.

"The Arctic is a region of emerging importance, where we are working with other federal agencies and our regional partners to safeguard stability and security," said U.S. Air Force Gen. Lori Robinson, Commander North American Aerospace Defense Command and USNORTHCOM. "Exercise Arctic Chinook was designed to ensure close maritime coordination and unity of effort between international, interagency and industry partners in response to an emergency. The exercise offered us, and our trusted partners, an opportunity to anticipate, prepare for, and understand the challenges of a mass maritime rescue operation in the Arctic."

Arctic Chinook was a partnership field training exercise that tested our Arctic search and rescue interoperability as well as capabilities and limitations in the austere and remote Arctic environment, said U.S. Air Force Col. Chris Reifel, Alaskan Command Deputy Chief of Staff.

"We set the scale of these exercises on a level we can execute in order to test processes, procedures and capabilities," Reifel said. "The scale is usually small, so that if a bigger event occurs, there are techniques and procedures that we've practiced that can be applicable to a larger scale."

In this scenario, patients were evacuated via helicopter from the ship to one of two forward operating locations. One, to Nome, Alaska, was for minor or no injuries, and more severely injured patients were evacuated to the Kotzebue Maniilaq Hospital in order to receive medical treatment. Some of the passengers and crew evacuated the cruise ship via raft in order to reach shore. For those passengers and crew, pararescuemen with the 212th Rescue Squadron performed radio rescue coordination with Alaska Air National Guard HH-60 Pavehawks, Alaska National Guard UH-60 Blackhawks and the Royal Canadian Air Force.

The exercise also tested the use of an Arctic Sustainment Package, which is a pallet of supplies needed to sustain life for 24 to 48 hours in the severe Arctic environment. Reifel said the plan was to push the pallet out of the back of a C-17 Globemaster III, however, due to weather, that plan was cancelled and instead the aircraft landed at Kotzebue and the sustainment package was delivered to the FTX by helicopter. With austere weather, flexibility is vital for mission success.

"The importance of this exercise is that it gets people working together," said Adm. Robert Papp (USCG ret.), Special Representative for the Arctic. "Two major accomplishments of the Arctic Council have been the Search and Rescue Agreement and the Oil Spill Response Agreement and agreements are great on paper, but we have to prove that they work and that's what these exercises are about."

"I think the most important part of the exercise is to bring countries together, to work with each other, so that when a real emergency happens you are not meeting people for the first time," he continued. "People have been searching for an Arctic shorter sea route for about 500 years, and the reality is that it is becoming true and we need to be ready for the increase in human activity in the Arctic routes. There are many ways to get through the Arctic, but there is only one way to get to Asia and the west coast of the U.S. and that's through the Bering Strait. The U.S. has to be prepared for the possibility of accidents occurring."

More photos on the 176th Wing's Flickr album:
USAF Comments Policy
If you wish to comment, use the text box below. AF reserves the right to modify this policy at any time.

This is a moderated forum. That means all comments will be reviewed before posting. In addition, we expect that participants will treat each other, as well as our agency and our employees, with respect. We will not post comments that contain abusive or vulgar language, spam, hate speech, personal attacks, violate EEO policy, are offensive to other or similar content. We will not post comments that are spam, are clearly "off topic", promote services or products, infringe copyright protected material, or contain any links that don't contribute to the discussion. Comments that make unsupported accusations will also not be posted. The AF and the AF alone will make a determination as to which comments will be posted. Any references to commercial entities, products, services, or other non-governmental organizations or individuals that remain on the site are provided solely for the information of individuals using this page. These references are not intended to reflect the opinion of the AF, DoD, the United States, or its officers or employees concerning the significance, priority, or importance to be given the referenced entity, product, service, or organization. Such references are not an official or personal endorsement of any product, person, or service, and may not be quoted or reproduced for the purpose of stating or implying AF endorsement or approval of any product, person, or service.

Any comments that report criminal activity including: suicidal behaviour or sexual assault will be reported to appropriate authorities including OSI. This forum is not:

  • This forum is not to be used to report criminal activity. If you have information for law enforcement, please contact OSI or your local police agency.
  • Do not submit unsolicited proposals, or other business ideas or inquiries to this forum. This site is not to be used for contracting or commercial business.
  • This forum may not be used for the submission of any claim, demand, informal or formal complaint, or any other form of legal and/or administrative notice or process, or for the exhaustion of any legal and/or administrative remedy.

AF does not guarantee or warrant that any information posted by individuals on this forum is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. AF may not be able to verify, does not warrant or guarantee, and assumes no liability for anything posted on this website by any other person. AF does not endorse, support or otherwise promote any private or commercial entity or the information, products or services contained on those websites that may be reached through links on our website.

Members of the media are asked to send questions to the public affairs through their normal channels and to refrain from submitting questions here as comments. Reporter questions will not be posted. We recognize that the Web is a 24/7 medium, and your comments are welcome at any time. However, given the need to manage federal resources, moderating and posting of comments will occur during regular business hours Monday through Friday. Comments submitted after hours or on weekends will be read and posted as early as possible; in most cases, this means the next business day.

For the benefit of robust discussion, we ask that comments remain "on-topic." This means that comments will be posted only as it relates to the topic that is being discussed within the blog post. The views expressed on the site by non-federal commentators do not necessarily reflect the official views of the AF or the Federal Government.

To protect your own privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information, such as name, Social Security number, DoD ID number, OSI Case number, phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment. If you do voluntarily include personally identifiable information in your comment, such as your name, that comment may or may not be posted on the page. If your comment is posted, your name will not be redacted or removed. In no circumstances will comments be posted that contain Social Security numbers, DoD ID numbers, OSI case numbers, addresses, email address or phone numbers. The default for the posting of comments is "anonymous", but if you opt not to, any information, including your login name, may be displayed on our site.

Thank you for taking the time to read this comment policy. We encourage your participation in our discussion and look forward to an active exchange of ideas.