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Mount Rainier Search-and-Rescue Training for Upcoming Hiking Season

  • Published
  • By Mr. Andre, 943rd Rescue Group Public Affairs

On April 22, 2020, the 304th Rescue Squadron performed mission essential training with the Army Reserve in support of search and rescue training for the upcoming climbing season at Mount Rainer National Park.

In today’s climate of the COVID-19 pandemic, special measures were implemented to mitigate risk during this life-saving training. The Air Force is committed to preserving the ability of our servicemen and women to provide for national defense and current worldwide military missions.

Pararescuemen (PJs) from the 304th Rescue Squadron joined forces with Fox Company, 2-135th General Support Aviation Battalion of the Army Reserve and Mount Rainier Park Rangers from the National Park Service.

Capt. Ben, Combat Rescue Officer, 304th Rescue Squadron said, “We have a memorandum of agreement between the 304 RQS, an Army Reserve CH-47 unit, and the National Park Service to support civil search and rescue operations at Mount Rainier, when requested.”

The Army Reserve unit from Joint-Base Lewis McChord has CH-47 Chinooks with hoist capability. Together the Air Force Reserve and Army Reserve were able to perform mission rehearsals and training and integration for the upcoming climbing season at Mt. Rainier. The training was successful while utilizing safety protocols in compliance with COIVD-19 risk mitigation.

The park’s centerpiece is Mt. Rainier, 14,410 feet, which is considered an active volcano and covers 235,625 acres in the Cascade Range. In 2018 the NPS reported 1.5 million visitors to Mount Rainier park.

In 2019 the 304 RQS participated in three rescue missions at Mount Rainier.

These Civilian Search and Rescue, Civ-SAR, missions and associated training with the Army Reserve provides real-world experience that is applicable to Combat Search and Rescue, C-SAR, missions although there are differences.

“We have different equipment on us for Civ-SAR to include mission specific mountaineering and alpine equipment in the back of the helicopter to facilitate extracting an injured or stranded climber off the mountain at high elevations,” said Capt. Ben. “Typically under hazardous mountain conditions, as we’re able to mitigate some of the risk for the National Park Service.”

Guardian Angel is the name of an elite group of personnel that is a non-aircraft, equipment-based human weapon system uniquely designed and dedicated to conduct Personnel Recovery across the full range of military operations. Guardian Angel is comprised of Combat Rescue Officers, Pararescuemen, Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) Specialists and uniquely trained support personnel dedicated to the Air Force core function of Personnel Recovery.

The 304 RQS is part of the 943rd Rescue Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona and the 920th Rescue Wing at Patrick AFB, Florida.

The 304th trains, equips, and deploys Combat Rescue Officers, Pararescuemen, and support personnel worldwide in the interest of U.S. national security.

More information on the unit is available at