Guardian Angel team rescues climbers on Mount Hood
By Tech. Sgt. Lindsey Maurice, 920th Rescue Wing Public Affairs
/ Published March 02, 2018
PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Air Force Reserve Guardian Angel Airmen with the 304th Rescue Squadron, Portland, Oregon, joined forces with the Clackamas County Sheriff’s office and other volunteer search-and-rescue groups to rescue several distressed climbers located about 10,500 feet up Mount Hood Feb. 13, 2018.
The hikers had been climbing near the peak of Oregon’s tallest mountain when they faced falling rocks and ice, resulting in one member falling approximately 1,000 feet. Upon the call for help, the Reserve Citizen Airmen sprang into action, readying a 15-person team and supplies.
Within a few hours they were on the scene laying rope lines that would allow the climbers to safely descend the mountain. Due to the 304th’s assistance, three of the four hikers who called for help made it down safely, as well as some additional hikers found along the way who were also battling the unstable terrain. Unfortunately, the fallen climber did not survive, despite the effort of fellow hikers and rescue crews to save his life.
“I was impressed by the professionalism of our team during this unfortunate incident,” said Lt. Col. Jesse Peterson, 304th RQS commander. “They were quick to assemble appropriate rescue equipment and to come up with a mission plan prior to heading up to the incident site.”
Once on scene, part of the team linked up with the decision makers at the command and control center, while the others donned their gear for the trek up the mountain.
“Had they wasted any time whatsoever, they would’ve missed out on the opportunity to assist those who were stuck in unfavorable conditions near the summit of Mount Hood,” Peterson said.
After the mission, the team documented lessons learned regarding equipment and tactics, technics and procedures, and then shared their findings with the rest of the rescue unit.
“This is an important part of each mission,” said Peterson. “This way we are better prepared next time a similar call for help occurs.”
On average, the 304th RQS assists with three to four civil search and rescue missions a year. The last time they were called into action on a local SAR mission was in October 2017 when they helped search for a missing hiker in the Mount Hood National Forrest. The Guardian Angels dedicated more than 300 hours, covering approximately 60 miles of terrain in support of the search. The hiker was found five days after he was reported missing and was safely transported home.
Peterson said that while the unit primarily focuses on combat search and rescue in their training, many of the scenarios they set up utilize ropes and take place in remote, mountainous environments, which helps in their civilian search and rescue capability as well.
“We train in the vicinity of Mount Hood and Mount St. Helens quite often, so this keeps us familiar with the terrain and prepared for whatever may pop up in the Pacific Northwest.”
The 304th RQS celebrated its 60th birthday in November 2017. The unit’s Guardian Angel team is comprised of combat rescue officers; pararescuemen, survival, evasion, resistance, and escape specialists; and uniquely trained support personnel dedicated to the Air Force core function of personnel recovery.