JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska --
It could be said JP-8 fuel runs in Airman 1st Class Peter Reddington's veins.
The Alaska Air National Guard Airman serves in the 176th Wing as an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter special missions aviator with the 210th Rescue Squadron, and he has big combat boots to fill.
Peter's father, retired Senior Master Sgt. Paul Reddington, served as a pararescueman (PJ), and the Airman's mother, retired Master Sgt. Tess Walsh, served as an HC-130P/N King radio operator, both as members of the wing.
The three represent every side of the rescue triad: pararescue, rescue helicopter and rescue fixed-wing aircraft operations.
As an SMA, Peter said he supports the pilots and the PJs by preparing the aircraft for flight, operating the rescue hoist and providing high cover by way of his machine gun or minigun.
Growing up around the rescue community, Peter said it was perhaps a foregone conclusion he would follow in his parents' foot steps.
“Getting to see what he got to do, it was always in the back of my mind to join,” Peter recalled. “Nothing else seemed cooler or better than joining the Guard and flying helicopters.”
That others may live
Paul's aeronautic journey began when he joined the regular Air Force as an electrician. Though he was slated to learn about diodes and circuits, he would find out he was actually destined to dangle from a helicopter rescue hoist pulling people from danger.
PJ recruiters managed to rope Paul in with a simple movie pitch.
“I saw the video, and PJs were parachuting, scuba diving and mountain climbing – actually rescuing people,” Paul said. “It seemed pretty cool.”
After several months in the pararescue training “pipeline” learning all the skills he saw in the video, Paul reported to his first duty station at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. There he served as part of a small six-Airman detachment supported by UH-1 Iroquois helicopters in support of F-111 Aardvark fighter-bomber operations.
Paul said he was considering leaving the service unless he got his station of choice: Alaska. In 1986, the Air Force granted the PJ's wish, and he was stationed at then-Elmendorf Air Force Base with the 71st Rescue Squadron.
“There are more rescue missions up here than in any other unit of the Air Force,” Paul explained, saying he only went on three civil search-and-rescue missions at Mountain Home. “You can get that in a weekend here.”
Deciding Alaska was everything he wanted it to be, Paul said he left the regular Air Force and joined the Alaska Air National Guard with the fledgling 210th RQS, where he would meet Peter's mother.
Thirty years after Paul first set foot in Alaska, he attended his son's Basic Military Training graduation at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas.
“Of course I was super proud,” Paul said before acknowledging the challenges of initial-entry training. “I also knew it was nice that it was over.”
Peter went onto SMA technical school, which included water survival as well as survival, evasion, resistance and escape training in addition to everything he needed to know about the Pave Hawk.
It wasn't long after reporting to 210th RQS that Peter found himself in the thick of a rescue mission.
The Alaska Rescue Coordination Center received a request for assistance Aug. 21, 2018, from the Alaska State Troopers. A group's raft turned over in the Talachulitna River, and their survival equipment washed downstream.
Hypothermic and without the lifeline of their gear, the group needed help.
In quick succession, Peter was recalled on alert, he prepared the HH-60 for operation, and the helicopter with a Guardian Angel team of pararescueman and combat-rescue officer was airborne.
Expecting and planning for three rafters, the crew was surprised to find six shivering people on the Talachulitna sand bar. Peter crunched the numbers again – the Pave Hawk had the capacity to safely deliver everyone to the medical assistance they needed.
“There's no better feeling of accomplishment than picking someone up and bringing them to the hospital,” Peter beamed.
Paul said he envies Peter's ongoing aerial adventures over an Alaska landscape dotted with sprawling caribou herds and ranging wolf packs.
“Flying helicopters in Alaska has got to be one of the greatest things out there,” Paul said. “I always loved flying on them. A lot of PJs don't, but I did.”
Today Paul still serves in the rescue community as a civilian scheduler for 212th Rescue Squadron, where he is responsible for scheduling PJs for their alert rotations.
The younger Reddington, for his part, said service in the skies over Alaska is everything he imagined it could be.
“It really is living the dream,” he said. “Growing up around it and thinking it would be so cool to do some day, I actually got to do it.”