HomeMediaArticle Display

176th Wing awarded Air Force 2021 Jolly Green Rescue Mission of the Year: It takes a wing to generate and sustain complex rescue operations.

176th Wing awarded Air Force 2021 Jolly Green Rescue Mission of the Year

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Members of the Jolly Green Association present the Jolly Green Mission of the Year award to 176th Wing representative Maj. Rebecca Altenburg, Sept. 11, 2012, at Fort Walton, Fla. Altenburg represented the wing as one of the many aviators, maintenance professionals and aircrew flight equipment Airmen during simultaneous rescue missions in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. (Courtesy photo)

176th Wing awarded Air Force 2021 Jolly Green Rescue Mission of the Year

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Lee Massey, Jolly Green Association, presents the Jolly Green Mission of the Year award to 176th Wing representative Maj. Rebecca Altenburg, Sept. 11, 2012, at Fort Walton, Fla. Altenburg represented the wing as one of the many aviators, maintenance professionals and aircrew flight equipment Airmen during simultaneous rescue missions in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. (Courtesy photo)


The 176th Wing’s operations and maintenance groups earned recognition for the 2021 Jolly Green Rescue Mission of the Year – an Air Force-level accolade.

Over Memorial Day weekend, Guardsmen of the 176th Wing generated and flew 30 sorties culminating in more than 120 flight hours in support of two high-altitude, combined effort rescue missions that saved 13 people in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.

“The complexity of the weekend was unprecedented as inclement weather in the park tested our equipment, required a joint force response, and demonstrated our air rescue team’s ability to navigate challenging weather and terrain,” said Alaska Air National Guard Senior Master Sgt. Evan Budd, Alaska Rescue Coordination Center superintendent. 

On May 29, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park Service requested assistance from the AKRCC after local assets were unable to safely fly through thick cloud cover and whiteout conditions to reach a mountaineering party with two members experiencing high-altitude sickness near 14,000 feet on Klutlan Glacier near Mount Bona.

The AKRCC dispatched a 211th Rescue Squadron HC-130J Combat King II and a 210th Rescue Squadron HH-60G Pave Hawk with a 212th Rescue Squadron Guardian Angel team of two pararescuemen and one 210th RQS special mission operator on board.

St. Elias guides with the mountaineering party safely moved the expedition to 10,000 feet where they set up shelter, surrounded by snow berms, to protect them from the wind. For three nights, the team continuously rebuilt berms, shoveled a clearing for the helicopter, provided field medical care for the injured, and relayed information via satellite phone to rescue crews.

A few hours into the Mount Bona mission, NPS requested additional assets for a second rescue after a Cessna 182 airplane crashed in inclement weather at an altitude of 6,500 feet on Mount Hawkins.

Rescue assets overhead at Mount Bona confirmed that winds were too high and clouds too thick to safely land the HH-60, so the AKRCC redirected the aircraft to Mount Hawkins and dispatched a second Pave Hawk and Guardian Angel team to Mount Bona.

“Generating these sorties required all hands on deck as weekend-alert maintenance personnel were called in to repair and inspect nearly our entire fleet for continuous, extended-range rescue operations,” said Chief Master Sgt. Eric Chester, 176th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron superintendent. “Our maintenance teams generated more than 250 percent of our normal aircraft capacity.”

During training and routine alert operations, the 176th AMXS has two or three crew chiefs ready to generate one HC-130 and one HH-60 with pre-flight taking approximately three hours and post-flight upwards of four or more hours. 

In order to support the demand of simultaneous rescue missions, the 176th AMXS generated two HC-130s, and four HH-60G with only 10 crew chiefs and two maintenance leads available. One of the helicopters generated was in the final stages of a major maintenance event, which entailed aircraft reassembly and maintenance of more than 30 no-fly discrepancies.

“It took all weekend to piece the helicopter together, but it was back to fully mission capable status on Monday morning and ready to assume alert for the final sortie of the mission,” Chester said. “This is key because we exhausted every other resource we had, and it was the last tail we had to fall back on.”

In addition to aircraft generation, aircrew flight equipment personnel of 176th Operations Support Squadron worked diligently to ensure parachutes, life-saving equipment and medical supplies were packed and ready for the unknown as patient conditions on Mount Hawkins were not ascertained at the time of dispatch.   

Early on May 31, a break in the weather on Mount Hawkins enabled the HH-60 to navigate to the crash site, hoist a Guardian Angel team 150 feet down onto technical terrain, and safely transport both persons from the mountain.  

Meanwhile, Mount Bona weather continued to worsen, so the St. Elias guides requested evacuation of their entire 11-person party. While resourced to continue their expedition, they were depleting resources and energy while maintaining camp and providing medical care for the injured persons.

The AKRCC processed this update and coordinated with the Army National Guard to dispatch a heavy-airlift capable CH-47F Chinook from the 38th Alaska Army National Guard Troop Command, 207th Aviation Regiment.

The HH-60 returned to JBER while the HC-130J remained overhead Mount Bona, so the crew could provide safe passage and weather updates to the Chinook. On June 1 the CH-47 safely navigated through the weather to airlift 11 people and more than 1,000 pounds of equipment from Klutlan Glacier.

“This was the first high-altitude heavy airlift for our Alaskan based Chinooks,” said Lt. Col. Michele Edwards, Alaska Army National Guard Aviation officer of the newest aircraft to the Army National Guard fleet.

More than 75 personnel from 10 different 176th Wing shops were in one way or another involved in enabling these rescue missions.

Complex rescue missions such as these demonstrate how cross-domain integration and how a strong support team is required to successfully and safely execute rescue missions.

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.