Inside the Gates: Alaska Army National Guard gives help to remote villages

Published: Aug. 25, 2021 at 2:51 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Normally sending freight from Nikolai to Telida requires a day-long trip by water. That is because no road connects the two villages. On July 27 of this year, the Alaska Army National Guard’s 211th General Support Aviation Battalion was called upon to dramatically speed up that process.

The battalion helped to move a skid-steer loader needed to keep Telida’s runway operating to allow flights carrying goods and personnel to land throughout the year.

“It’s a unique load,” Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kevin Katkos said. “It’s not something they’re going to find in a manual...something we had to put all our heads together on and plan.”

The plan called for the unit to use one of its CH-47F “Chinook” helicopters, and haul the piece of heavy equipment by way of slingload — that’s when cargo is transported while it hangs from underneath the helicopter.

The Army National Guard says the CH-47F is capable of slingloading up to 26,000 pounds.

“It’s a unique slingload, and a unique situation in itself delivering the slingload from one village to another and being able to do it safely,” Katkos said.

The 211th conducted the flight as part of the Innovative Readiness Training program.

The flight also gave one crew member a chance to do something he never did until this flight — visit an Alaskan village for the first time.

“Definitely an eye-opener to see how hardy those folks are, being able to live out there, and sustain, and do well,” Staff Sgt. Jeremy Maddox said.

The Army National Guard estimates the journey to transport goods between the two villages usually takes nine hours by boat. This flight is said to have taken just 40 minutes to complete.

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