The Alaska Army National Guard is in the process of stationing a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter and air crew permanently in Nome.
According to a statement from the Alaska National Guard, the helicopter and crew are expected to arrive in June. The news follows a March announcement in the wake of Typhoon Merbok lashing western Alaska last year that another Black Hawk will be permanently stationed in Bethel. That helicopter, equipped with a rescue hoist at residents’ request, made its first local flights last month.
The timeline for getting the Nome helicopter and crew in place is based on the weather – and the barge schedule.
“We weren’t able to physically move them out there last summer, so, we got everything figured out this winter, and as soon as the barge hits this spring, or early summer, we’re going to have a full-time crew out there – two pilots, one crew chief, who’s also a mechanic, and a UH-60,” said Col. Michele Edwards, the Army Guard’s state aviation officer.
The new helicopter’s summer arrival will be the first National Guard presence in the region in two years. Edwards said a helicopter previously stationed in Nome was sent abroad on the Guard’s rotating foreign deployments.
“One of the periods where we did not have a UH-60 in Nome was because that unit was deployed to Iraq, and that was 2021 to 2022,” she said.
The new Black Hawk will be stationed at the Army Guard’s aviation facility in Nome.
“We haven’t had a UH-60 stationed there regularly for about the last year and a half, almost two years,” Edwards said. “We have had an aircraft there off and on, historically, over the last 20-plus years.”
There is currently one crew member already living in Nome. The others will need to find a place to live, Edwards said, as there is no military housing in the area.
“The individuals are given housing allowance and cost of living allowance that supports them living on the economy, and that’s true Army-wide,” she said.
According to Edwards, a significant number of Army Guard aviators returned from deployment last year, and this is the first opportunity to station a permanent crew in Nome.
Edwards said working with the Alaska Department of Public Safety will be a big part of the Guard’s mission in the region.
“The Alaska State Troopers need support,” Edwards said. “We are there to support those civilian agencies, if called upon. The troopers still take the lead on search and rescue operations. The State Emergency Operations (Center) still take the lead on disasters, but we are there to assist.”
Edwards added the Nome crew will be responsible for training and conducting Guard missions, but can assist in local search and rescue if requested by the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center.