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Alaska’s Distinctive Challenges are Highlighted by 660-Mile Rescue Flight

By 04/10/2023 10:21 AMNo CommentsBy YidInfo Staff

This week, the Alaska Air National Guard traveled nearly 660 miles (1,062 kilometers) to save a pregnant woman trapped on a tiny island 2 miles (3 kilometers) from Russia.

This incident illustrates the difficulties patients in the largest state in the union face because the hospitals can be hundreds of miles away, and the most remote areas lack roads.

The personnel took a twin-engine combat search and rescue helicopter from the Anchorage region to the island in the Bering Strait because there was no place for a fixed-wing aircraft to land.

Throughout the 5-hour flight, a long-range search and rescue plane guided the helicopter across mountain passes and refueled it numerous times in the air.

But, Alaska Air National Guard Maj. Sara Warren, the on-duty rescue officer, said they took all precautions to prevent any incident, including remaining on the US side of the international date line.

Russian planes often fly close to the Bering Strait.

She claimed of the Russians, “There was virtually no activity from them.

In a state that is almost 2.5 times the size of Texas and has more shoreline than the lower 48 states combined, these kinds of daring rescues by the guard and other agencies are regular.

According to the organization, this year alone, the Alaska Air National Guard has carried out 14.

Speaking on behalf of the Alaska National Guard, Alan Brown said, “It’s quite different here in Alaska because we don’t have the infrastructure they have down in the lower 48.” You’re looking at the civilian agencies, which are more numerous and have more powerful capabilities.

With only roughly 730,000 residents, Alaska is a small, dispersed state with unpredictable weather that forces everyone to work together to carry out life-saving missions.

On the small island, a recent rescue operation involved 41 persons in total.

Brown stated, “Our soldiers, luckily, have to be capable because of the nature of their federal duty for search and rescue. “It really makes no sense that they must frequently exercise in such adverse weather conditions around the region.

According to Warren, the cry for help came early on Monday.

They were notified about a pregnant woman in Diomede, an 80-person town on the western side of Little Diomede Island, experiencing excruciating stomach pain. It is a typical Ingalikmiut Inuit community where the inhabitants hunt seals, polar bears, and blue crabs for food. On the island, there are no practicing physicians.

During this time of year, 2 miles (3 kilometers) of frozen Bering Sea ice separate it from Big Diomede Island, which belongs to Russia.

The temporary international date line separates the two islands.

According to Warren, long-lasting sea ice fog and a power outage in Diomede complicated the rescue effort. Every hour, town residents would make a power-saving call to the hospital in Nome, 130 miles (209 kilometers) away, to provide an update on the woman’s status.

The most recent information would then be passed on to personnel at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage by a doctor in Nome.

A civilian medical crew was waiting in Nome, but they could not fly their helicopter due to the bad weather.

Therefore, the National Guard aircraft took out from Anchorage. After giving the helicopter fuel to conduct weather reconnaissance, the plane would fly ahead, steering it clear of storms and through numerous passes of the Alaska Range and to Diomede. Warren and others at the base monitored all of it in real-time.

Warren said, “They eventually got her out without causing any issues.”

The woman was later airlifted to Nome and reported that she was in good health.

Compared to other states where guard crews might participate in search and rescue operations, the Alaska Air National Guard has less experience with such a complicated assignment.

The 210th, 211th, and 212th Rescue Squadrons of the Alaska Air National Guard were involved in this incident.

Because they also train in these conditions, guardsmen in Alaska are used to managing complex tasks, accounting for severe weather, resolving time-distance issues, and navigating rough terrain.


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