Ready at a moment’s notice
By Airman Nora Anton, 354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published December 14, 2006
EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- Airmen from Det. 1, 210th Rescue Squadron took to the skies in a Sikorsky HH-60G Pavehawk helicopter on a two-hour training mission the afternoon of Dec. 7.
The aerial gunner and flight engineer's mission goal was to qualify on the M240, a 7.62 mm machine gun, by successfully shooting at fake convoys set up in the Pacific Alaska Range Complex.
The PARC spans 60,000 square miles of land, roughly the size of Kansas and was designed for military personnel to perform training. The 210th does the majority of its training during Red Flag-Alaska exercises, but supplements its effectiveness on missions such as these.
"Aerial gunnery is a great perk to this job," said Senior Airman Eli Wamack, Det. 1, 210th RQS helicopter flight engineer. "It was one more training requirement taken care of; I'm glad it went well."
Flight engineers have the same gunner training requirements as aerial gunners in a Pavehawk because there is only one gunner on the aircraft but two guns, so the engineer has to man the weapons on the right side, said Airman Wamack.
The detachment from Kulis Air National Guard Base employs guardsmen trained in airfield management, helicopter maintenance and communications and avionics, specialists as well as aircrew, to complete their mission.
"Our mission is unique at Eielson because of the extreme cold temperatures, high altitudes and the large geographic area we have to cover," said Maj. William Kupchin, Det. 1, 210th RQS commander.
The Airmen of this detachment risk their lives every year whileperusing the ins and outs of uncharted Alaskan wilderness on various rescue missions for the entire state. Rescue missions range anywhere from aircraft mishaps to lost persons.
"The rescue squadron provides 24-hour, 365-day-a-year search and rescue capabilities," said Chief Master Sgt. Scott Hamilton, 210th RQS helicopter flight engineer superintendent, "and at the same time renders our regular squadron capabilities on par with all of the fighter squadrons located at Eielson and Elmendorf."
"The detachment also provides the same capabilities at deployed locations," he said.
"Our crew and pararescue technicians are trained on water rescues to high-altitude mountain, glacier and crevasse rescues," said Major Kupchin, a 16-year veteran helicopter pilot. "We depend on aerial refueling to reach the most remote parts of Alaska."
"The remainder of our support comes from the 354th Fighter Wing, the 168th Air Refueling Wing and Kulis," he added.
One of the 210th's most memorable rescues occurred during last February's Yukon Quest dogsled race, when the squadron rescued six dogsled teams from Eagle Summit.
"It was a classic Alaska mission," said Major Kupchin.
"It was a rough winter storm with 50 knot winds and a quarter-mile visibility," he said. "We flew from trail marker to trail marker into the pass but had to retreat. As we came around from the back side, the weather cleared a bit and we found the missing teams and rescued six mushers and 88 dogs--it took six trips and aerial refueling with the HC-130."
Though the unit performs several rescue missions, the Yukon Quest rescue remains a little more unique due to the unlikely passengers.
"The cabin was packed full with dogs," he said.
Rescues like the Yukon Quest are just one example of why the 210th RQS constantly trains.
"We are ready at a moment's notice to deal with any situation we are presented with to meet our motto: that others may live," Major Kupchin said.