Arctic Guardians rescue 6 snowmachiners at College Glacier

  • Published
  • By David Bedard
  • 176th Wing Public Affairs

Alaska Air National Guardsmen of the 176th Wing rescued six stranded snowmachiners Oct. 25 at College Glacier about 130 miles southeast of Fairbanks.

Alaska State Troopers requested support after the party triggered a satellite-communication device SOS signal.

At the request of the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center, 176th Wing launched a 210th Rescue Squadron HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter and a 211th Rescue Squadron HC-130J Combat King with 212th Rescue Squadron pararescuemen onboard both aircraft.

Due to extremely low visibility, the HC-130 dropped a flare to illuminate the snowmachiners’ location.

The HH-60 crew located the party and made contact. Pararesuemen instructed five snowmachiners to move to a clearing at a safe distance, so the crew could hoist one snowmachiner suffering cold weather injuries. The Pave Hawk then landed and loaded the remaining five.

The Pave Hawk crew transported the uninjured snowmachiners to the Richardson Highway near Richardson Monument and released them to Alaska State Troopers for their safety. They then transported the injured snowmachiner to the Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage.

The HC-130 air-to-air refueled the HH-60 during the mission to extend the helicopter’s range.

Alaska Air National Guard Capt. Christopher McKnight, AKRCC senior mission controller, said the party’s use of a satellite-communication device was critical for a good outcome.

“Over-the-horizon communication was their lifeline to the Troopers and to us,” he said. “It’s also important to be ready for winter weather as conditions can change quite suddenly for the worse.”

For the mission, 210th RQS, 211th RQS, 212th RQS and the AKRCC received credit for six saves.