Angels for an Avalanche

Airmen of the 33rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron, flying aboard Army CH-47 helicopters with two USAF tactical air control party airmen, were among the first on the scene following a series of avalanches in Afghanistan’s Salang Pass in early February. The Guardian Angel team, comprising a combat rescue officer and several pararescuemen from Air Force Reserve Command’s 920th Rescue Wing at Patrick AFB, Fla., confronted not only the sub-zero weather and additional avalanches, but more than 1,500 people, many injured and some still trapped in overturned vehicles. SMSgt. Mark Ziegler said the rescue airmen have no “formal training in crowd control and in this situation we had a learning curve of about 15 seconds.” In one instance, TSgt. Blain Morgan led a team down 600 meters into a valley in waist deep snow, where they cleared a helicopter landing area to rescue people from a bus. (455th Air Expeditionary Wing report by SSgt. Richard Williams)