JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Lt. Gen. L. Scott Rice, director, Air National Guard, visited with 176th Wing Guardsmen at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Aug. 26 and 27.
The director is responsible for formulating, developing and coordinating all policies, plans and programs affecting more than 105,500 Guard members and civilians in more than 90 wings and 175 geographically separated units across 213 locations throughout the 50 States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands.
After briefings with 11th Air Force and Alaska National Guard leadership at JBER, Rice dined with Airmen and presented several exemplary Guardsmen with challenge coins.
He told leaders at the luncheon to focus on their Airmen’s strength and to work through their weaknesses.
“I have a tremendous amount of passion for this business,” the general said. “My heart is in this. I do this because, in my own small way, I have an opportunity to help people get better.”
Rice toured the 176th Air Defense Squadron’s Region Air Operations Center, which is part of the Alaskan NORAD Region. The Guard staffing the RAOC work closely with Regular Air Force Airmen of the Alaskan NORAD Region, the 11th Air Force and a Canadian Forces Air Command detachment to detect and intercept any intrusion into U.S. or Canadian airspace.
Lt. Col. Matthew Kirby, 212th Rescue Squadron commander, led the director through a tour of the squadron. He described how combat rescue officers and pararescuemen of the squadron have partnered with the 210th and 211th Rescue Squadrons to rescue hundreds of service members during numerous combat deployments, and more than two thousand civilians in Alaska and the Lower 48.
Kirby told Rice about when Airmen of the 176th Wing partnered with the U.S. Coast Guard in 2006 to rescue 23 merchant sailors aboard the stricken Singapore-flagged Cougar Ace cargo vessel. Located 230 miles south of Adak Island on the Aleutian Islands chain, the mammoth effort required the capabilities of 210th Rescue Squadron HH-60G Pave Hawks including aerial refueling with 211th Rescue Squadron HC-130 Kings to extend their range.
Kirby also showed Rice the wing’s Arctic Sustainment Package staged in warm storage on Elmendorf Airfield. The ASP is a rapidly deployable air-droppable package that can provide shelter, heat, transportation, fuel and food for 28 people for up to six and a half days in extreme Arctic conditions. Men and women from the 212th RQS and the 176th Operations Support Squadron keep the ASP on alert year-round for potential remote or Arctic mass-casualty rescue operations.
Lt. Col. Glenn Ott, 210th RQS commander, gave the general a tour of the second of two Operational Loss Replacement HH-60 recently delivered to the wing. The OLR Pave Hawks are recapitalized low-hour U.S. Army UH-60L Black Hawks converted for combat search and rescue service.
The OLRs will ensure rescue readiness for the wing, bridging the gap until the HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter is fielded with the squadron in the late 2020s.
Rice had the opportunity to tour the 211th RQS’ recently fielded HC-130J Combat King II, which executed the wing’s first J-model Guardian Angel parachute drop search and rescue of a bear-mauling victim in June.
On the morning of Aug. 27, Rice took helicopter academics with 210th RQS before co-piloting an HH-60 with Maj. Jeremy Groat to Clear Air Force Station. Later, Rice met with Alaska Air National Guardsmen of 168th Wing at Eielson Air Force Base.