Faichild Airmen save 6 People

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http://www.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123228895

Good job by the Rescue Flight at Fairchild, good on the crewmember for staying with the dog. Dog's owner should be kicked in the crotch for abandoning the dog.

by Staff Sgt. J.G. Buzanowski
92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

11/2/2010 - FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. (AFNS) -- Airmen from the 36th Rescue Flight saved six people and a dog during two different operations in Northern Idaho Oct. 28.

Unexpected snowfall, up to 3 feet in some places, stranded a father and daughter as well as a group of campers among the 7,000-foot peaks of the densely forested mountain ranges.

The five-person crew took off in a UH-1N Iroquois helicopter from Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash. at 6 a.m. to search for Matthew and Kia Gering, who'd been missing since Oct. 25. The pair was out celebrating the girl's 14th birthday with a hunting trip near St. Maries, Idaho.

While driving, they ran over a tree branch that had been buried in the snow, puncturing their tire. The pair barely had enough provisions to last the 72 hours they were stranded. An avid outdoorsman, Mr. Gering eventually had to hunt down food for the two of them.

The two had set out to walk to another road to try and find help Oct. 28. The Fairchild AFB crew had been in the area only 20 minutes before they spotted the footprints in the snow and were able to rescue the Gerings.

"We saw their tracks and had a really good feeling it was going to be them," said Tech. Sgt. Joseph Brownell, one of two medics aboard the helicopter. "I went down there and saw they were okay, they weren't hurt or anything. So we got them aboard and flew them out."

Once the helicopter landed, the friends and family members who had been waiting welcomed home the hunters.

"We don't always get to see the reunion part of a rescue, so that made us all feel really good," said Capt. Mark Morales, the pilot.

After refueling and on their way back to Fairchild AFB, another call came in about four campers outside of Lewiston, Idaho, about 60 miles south of the helicopter crew at the time. The crew diverted to search for the campers, who'd activated their emergency locator beacon after they'd been trapped by the snow.

A second helicopter was also sent to the area from a Fairchild training area.

"We knew the crew would be cutting it close to the time when they needed to be back to base for crew rest, so we sent out the second helicopter as backup," said Maj. John Beurer, the 36th Rescue Flight commander.

As it turns out, the second helicopter was a good idea. The crew was able to fit the four campers in the first helicopter, but didn't have room for their dog.

"I could tell they were really upset about it, and we didn't want to leave their dog, we just had to worry about having room," Sergeant Brownell said. "So I stayed behind with him while they took the people back to Lewiston. When the second helicopter arrived on-scene, I was able to bring him up and we got everybody out."

At the end of the day, the crew celebrated their success with the ceremonial changing of the number of rescues displayed at the entrance to their headquarters -- from 650 to 656 lives saved.

"We're extremely proud of what our crews were able to accomplish today," Major Beurer said. "Their professionalism and dedication to the mission saved lives and reunited families today. What could be better than that?"

In addition to Captain Morales and Sergeant Brownell, aboard the helicopter were 1st Lt. Lauren Robillard, the co-pilot; Staff Sgt. Joshua Abbey, the flight engineer; and Master Sgt. Joseph Noone, a medic.
 
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