Air Force

August 23, 2012

Pararescueman braves frigid Alaska to save crash victims

PJ_pict
Master Sgt. Christopher Uriarte is one of 20 Airmen highlighted in the new Profiles in Courage. Uriarte is a pararescueman stationed with the 306th Rescue Squadron at Davis-Monthan AFB, whose heroic actions saved the lives of passengers on a downed civilian aircraft in the remote Chugach Mountains.

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. — The Air Force has released the latest Portraits in Courage, which highlights the courage of Airmen. One of them is Master Sgt. Christopher Uriarte, an Air Force reservist with the 306th Rescue Squadron at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz.

While assigned to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson as an Air National Guard pararescueman, over a four-day period in August 2010, Uriarte faced one of his most challenging missions in the Chugach mountain range of Alaska.

His pararescue team was notified that a civilian aircraft carrying five individuals had crashed onto a glacier at 8,500 feet. Unprepared for blizzard conditions, the survivors were in desperate need of assistance. Attempts to airdrop supplies to the survivors were futile due to wind gusts up to 70 mph that blew the bundles of rescue equipment off target.

Uriarte and three teammates devised a plan to reach the victims. They requested to be inserted beneath the storm, near the base of the glacier, 3,000 feet beneath and five miles from the crash site.

Aboard an Air Force HH-60 Blackhawk helicopter, which maneuvered as high up the glacier as the weather permitted, the team prepared to jump. The team successfully landed on the glacier, donned their skis, roped together, turned on their headlamps, and began the trek upwards toward the crash site as the sun set.

The team steadily ascended the glacier through the night using special wands to probe the snow to avoid falling into one of the many partially covered crevasses. Although they were weighted down by heavy backpacks and towed two sleds full of medical and rescue equipment, the team trekked as quickly as possible knowing that it was a race against time to rescue the survivors who were enduring harsh conditions and hurricane-force winds.

The team crossed snow bridges and passed beneath hanging ice, stopping only momentarily to hydrate. Each was drenched to the bone from the blizzard conditions which caused frostbite and hypothermia. After nearly 24 hours of non-stop climbing, they reached the crash site.

Uriarte and his team treated the survivors, gave them warm clothes, and awaited airlift. The next day, a U.S. Army UH-60 helicopter attempted to land but crashed onto the glacier approximately 200 meters from the camp.

The pararescuemen instinctively ran to the wreckage and escorted the shaken aircrew to their makeshift camp. The storm raged for two more days. When it finally subsided, all the crash survivors and Uriate’s team were airlifted by helicopter off the glacier.

For his heroic actions during this life-saving mission, Uriarte was submitted for the Airman’s Medal.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Fit force ups fighting game

  LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, ARIZONA — Whether once or twice a year, all officers and enlisted Airmen must participate in the Air Force’s fitness assessment. The purpose of the Air Force Fitness Program is to emphasize total fitness of today’s Airmen. By participating in a year-round physical program that includes eating healthy, aerobic conditioning, strength and...
 
 
(U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)

Viper Demo Team pilot ‘Rockets’ to new heights

  SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. — An F-16CM Fighting Falcon shoots into the air, flying at a speed of 400 knots as it is pulled through various maneuvers to demonstrate its capabilities. Maneuvering the aircraft throug...
 
 

Enlisted promotion study reference material released

OINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas — The Profession of Arms Center of Excellence will release Air Force Handbook 1, Airman, Oct 2015 which replaces the Professional Development Guide, and will provide enlisted Airmen information needed for promotion testing. Individual study guides, developed from the information within the handbook, are available for immediate download via www.pdg.a...
 

 

AF revolutionizes study material delivery for FY16

WASHINGTON (AFNS) — Airmen studying for career development and promotion opportunities will begin to receive study materials solely online by Oct. 1, 2017. Electronic delivery of Career Development Course volumes and Weighted Airman Promotion System study references have been in place for several years with a majority of the materials accessible on Air Education and Training Command...
 
 
(Courtesy photo/Susan Garcia)

Fighter pilot makes history at USAF Weapons School

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho (AFNS) — Capt. Kari Armstrong, an F-15E Strike Eagle weapon systems officer with the 389th Fighter Squadron, received more than a diploma from the U.S. Air Force Weapons School at Nelli...
 
 

Balancing career, family through career intermission program

  KADENA AIR BASE, Japan (AFNS) — Being in the U.S. military can be a tough balance between career and family. For some, it comes down to a choice between the two; however, for Katie Evans, a temporarily separated captain and the former 18th Force Support Squadron manpower and personnel flight commander here, it’s about...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>