Alaska National Guard units recognized for Rescue of the Year

Published: Nov. 7, 2021 at 2:12 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Alaska National Guard personnel often conduct search and rescue operations.

Two of their rescues have earned the rescue personnel prestigious honors.

They received awards Nov. 5, as recipients of the annual Jolly Green Rescue Mission of the Year from the Air Rescue Association and the That Others May Live Foundation.

Nine Alaskan units in total won awards during the ceremony at Lake Hood., six of which were Air National Guard units. The 176th Wing, the 176th Maintenance Group, the 176th Operations Group, the 210th Rescue Squadron, the 211th Rescue Squadron, and the 212th Rescue Squadron all were awarded, as well as the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center, the Army National Guard’s 38th Alaska National Guard Troop Command, and the 207th Aviation Regiment.

“I think it’s fantastic. I don’t expect to be a part of it,” said Master Sgt. John Catiller of the 176th Maintenance Group. “I was, so here I am.”

The two rescue operations saved 13 lives in total.

The personnel responded to two rescues in Wrangell-St. Elias National park over the Memorial Day weekend. The first involved 11 people at Mount Bona May 29. The Alaska Coordination Center reported to two climbers experienced high-altitude sickness.

Crews from, the 210th, 211th, and 212th Rescue Squadrons responded. However, weather hampered the rescue. Another challenge came several hours later about 70 miles away as two people survived a plane crash near Mount Hawkins.

“I greatly appreciate it, absolutely. Just, I don’t do this for that, you know,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Seth Dibble, a pilot with the 207th Aviation Regiment. “It’s a little embarrassing when you get it. I don’t need it, I appreciate it. It’s a great appreciation, it’s a great honor, but I would do it anyway.”

Army Guard crews joined their Air Guard counterparts who rescued the survivors May 31.

Attention then returned to Mount Bona and the trapped hikers. During that rescue mission, the weather once again proved to be a problem.

“We had low ceilings, low visibility. We tried to get in there, just couldn’t,” recalled Dibble. “(We) Tried the next morning.”

Dibble flies a CH-47 “Chinook” used to recover the hikers on June 2.

The awards recognized the personnel for the heroism of their rescues. The recipients credit teamwork for their accomplishment.

“The endurance of the pilots, the endurance of the maintenance guys that were working with me on the second shift,” said Catiller. “Just everybody collectively getting together and making this happen beautifully. It was almost seamless.”

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