Alaska Air Guard participates in Lava Rescue

Wednesday, March 5, 2014 - 23:00
An Alaska Air National Guard HH-60 Pave Hawk hovers off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii during a search and rescue exercise mission as part of the Alaska Air National Guard’s Lava Rescue 2014 exercise the last two weeks of February.

Airman from the Alaska Air National Guard’s 176th Wing completed “Lava Rescue 2014,” an 11-day flying training exercise in Hawaii last week.

Seventy-seven members of the 210th and 212th Rescue Squadrons, the 144th and 249th Airlift Squadrons, and the 176th Maintenance Group participated in a first-ever opportunity of its kind in the Alaska Air Guard.

“What makes this unique is having the largest operations group in the Air National Guard train together for a mass casualty water search and rescue response, and conduct air refueling and air drops with other service components in the Pacific Command area of operations,” said 210th Rescue Squadron Commander, Lt. Col. Steve Latham. “Few folks in our ops group have had much opportunity to perform our mission and get this type of training in our tasked AOR.”

Training exercises included search and rescue operations performed at sea during the day, and additional SAR training after dark with night-vision equipment. For one of the scenarios, “survivors” were pre-placed about five miles off of the coast of Oahu, with 212th RQS Guardian Angel pararescuemen in place on a water craft, and additional PJs in the 210th RQS HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter to practice exiting the helo, rescuing survivors, and being hoisted back onto the aircraft.

In another search and rescue exercise—a mission that only the Alaska Air National Guard C-17 Globemaster III aircraft has performed—PJs and two SAR watercraft were dropped from the aircraft over water, simulating a long-range SAR mission.

This was the first time that a Guardian Angel rescue craft has ever dropped from a C-17 over water.

“We are the only C-17 unit in the Air Force and ANG who currently executes the C-17 rescue airdrop,” said Maj. Scott Altenburg, a C-17 pilot and mission commander for the C-17 portion of Lava Rescue 2014.

“We wrote the book on it. It’s now published in our tactics and procedures and will be released this year for other C-17 units to reference,” said Altenburg.

The C-17 also practiced air refueling this week with the Hawaii Air National Guard’s KC-135 Stratotanker, and conducted formation flying with the Air Force’s 535th Airlift Squadron.

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