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Injured hiker, 51, hoisted off Flattop by helicopter

Katie Medred

When the terrain on Anchorage's popular Flattop Mountain turned too steep for would-be rescuers with the Alaska State Troopers and the Anchorage Fire Department on Tuesday night, the Alaska Air National Guard was once again summoned to help a climber in trouble. Marc Sierra, 51, was hampered by an injured knee.

Luckily for Alaskans and tourists who get into trouble in the 49th state, the Alaska Air Guard wing at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson is home to one of the U.S. military's most elite units -- the 210th and 212th Rescue Squadrons. The Air Force equivalent of the Navy Seals, the squadrons are trained to rescue downed pilots from behind enemy lines in times of war. Part of the unit just shipped out for Afghanistan to perform those duties. The pilots and parajumpers who stayed behind were doing what they often do in Alaska on Tuesday night -- saving people in trouble in the wilderness. 

This time, according to troopers, Sierra was in the backcountry that begins at the edge of the state's largest city. Paramedics from the Anchorage Fire Department reached the hiker to provide treatment, according to the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center at Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson. But the paramedics couldn't pack him down a popular hiking trail on the state's most climbed peak, or move him to a flat area where the troopers could land their helicopter.

The Air National Guard doesn't need to land. It can hoist, which is what it did. A parajumper was lowered, and the hiker was loaded into a basket, which was hoisted into the helicopter. The hiker was then delivered to nearby Providence Alaska Medical Center for treatment, according to the Guard spokesman Maj. Guy Hayes.

“We were requested because the angle of terrain prevented Helo 1 from landing at that location," said Master Sgt. Kenneth Bellamy of the 11th Air Force Rescue Coordination Center. "The patient was suffering a knee injury, but was stable with medics from AFD on scene, so we requested Alaska Air National Guard support.”

Correction: This story originally reported Marc's last name as Ciara, it is in fact Sierra.