National Guardsmen rescued by Coast Guard

Posted: Tuesday, November 05, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Four Alaska National Guard soldiers had to be rescued Monday by the Coast Guard after running into trouble during a weekend training exercise near Valdez.

The names of the four guardsmen, all from Valdez, were not available Monday. No one suffered serious injuries, said Alaska National Guard spokesman Maj. Mike Haller.

The Alaska National Guard requires most of its soldiers to train one weekend a month and 15 additional days a year. In this case, the four Guardsmen were dropped off at Jack Bay, 20 miles south of Valdez. Their mission was to hike to Anderson Bay, at least 2 1/2 miles away. A map of the area shows a 2,700-foot peak between the two points.

During the trek, one guardsman sprained his ankle and hit his head, Haller said, so the group decided to split up. They set up camp, and two uninjured members pushed on to Anderson Bay to get help.

It was cold, windy and raining, Haller said, and the two members who pushed ahead left most of their survival gear behind for the injured man.

''They felt they could make it out to get help,'' Haller said. ''It was a risk. There's no doubt about that.''

On the way to Anderson Bay, one man fell, hit his head and hurt his shoulder. The pair kept on, suffering from mild hypothermia as the night wore on.

''They had radio equipment, but at some point it failed,'' Haller said. One man had a cell phone and was eventually able to call for help.

The Rescue Coordination Center in Anchorage contacted the Coast Guard at 8:20 p.m. Sunday. The Coast Guard launched a helicopter from Kodiak early Monday morning.

All four soldiers were rescued early Monday and flown to Valdez. None of the soldiers had to be hospitalized, Haller said.

The four soldiers involved will probably have to undergo additional safety training before doing a similar exercise, Haller said.

''Weather played a factor here, and the weather could have been worse than it was. We're very fortunate,'' he said.

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