Combat King's reign essential when it comes to search and rescue missions
It's not uncommon for the Alaska Air National Guard to be on hand to help for any in state or national rescue effort. Most recently, the HC-130J or Combat King II was deployed to help with search and rescue missions in the Carolina's for Hurricane Florence relief efforts.
"We have four assigned aircraft to us here at the 176th," Production Supervisor Master Sergeant Bobby Dubinsky with the Alaska Air National Guard said. "Three are currently on station and one is coming back from the east coast right now. That'd be Hurricane Hero here."
The "Hurricane Hero" left for Dover, Delaware, on August 12 and since its arrival on the East Coast, was put to work each and every day.
"It's been flying every day," Dubinsky said. "It's been picking up people, rescuing people stranded by the hurricane with the flooding and everything. We just got word today that it will be back in Anchorage by the end of the day today."
The Alaska Air National Guard does a lot of the same work active duty does, working hand in hand together. However, the Air Guard is also its own unique unit with state and federal commitments that the Air Force itself has. That's why keeping the Combat Kings ready and on alert at all times is critical.
"We work with the aircrew to go through everything," Crew Chief SSgt. Zach Cherry said. "We just going through all of our equipment making sure everything is in the right place. Making sure anything that can expire like in our first aid kits and what not are up to date."
The HC-130J's play a vital part for any search and rescue because of the aircraft's unique features.
"This aircraft is so versatile in what we can throw in here," Cherry said. "Our pararescuemen can put boats in here and four-wheelers and then air drop them out the back."
The plane also features a special night vision and thermal vision camera on the front to further aid it in finding what it is looking for.
"Once it finds what it's looking for we can jettison survival supplies," Cherry said. "Our rescuemen will also jump out and parachute in to help. We'll launch flares to mark the area as well. Whatever is needed we'll get it out."
Perhaps the most unique feature the HC-130J has is its ability to refuel Pave Hawk helicopters in mid-air.
"The plane has two refueling pods under each wing," Chew Chief TSgt. Carlos Gonzalez said. "The hose will branch out about 90 feet and the helicopters have a probe that lines up with the pod. The pods have like a parachute around them to keep them from spinning. Refueling the helicopters enables them to stay out and continue their mission."
The Combat King II's also feature turbo propellers which allow the heavier aircraft to land on smaller runways which in Alaska, is very beneficial. The HC-130J Combat King's are involved an array of missions that include local law enforcement and state search and rescue missions, pararescue training, state coast guard missions and active duty alerts.
"In the rescue part whether that is a plane or boat," Dubinsky said. "What we'll do is circle around and highlight the area, drop para-troopers and get to the people for first aid response. That's where we work hand in hand with the helicopters. If they are in a place where they can't land, we can meet up and provide the transport. We're also a much longer range aircraft."
Dubinsky says working with the Alaska Air National Guard gives he and the rest of the crew a sense of pride.
"It's a lot of different opportunities," Dubinsky said. "A chance to travel the world, seeing things and deploying. Really it's what we do. We're in a constant state of readiness and getting the mission done no matter what it is. We all try to execute any mission we're on with excellence."
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