KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --
Two hikers rescued by the 58th Special Operations Wing and its 512th Rescue Squadron visited Kirtland Air Force Base on Dec. 12 to offer thanks to the Airmen who saved their lives.
“It was a life-changing experience,” said Carol Powell, one of the rescued hikers. “You come that close to thinking that it is the end and then the military comes and saves you.”
Dawning the same clothing they were rescued in, Powell and fellow hiker Ronda Ramsier made a trip to bring pastries and thanks to the Airmen who saved their lives. Powell is from Ohio and Ramsier from Colorado.
“We heard from our local search and rescue that they never hear back from anyone rescued, and we couldn’t understand that,” Ramsier said. “Our memories of what these guys did for us are overwhelming.”
Powell and Ramsier became stranded for 36 hours with their two llamas near Durango, Colorado, during a hike in early August.
“To really be able to thank these guys, we had to come and thank them in person,” Powell said. “These Airmen went above and beyond to find us, so we wouldn’t have closure if we didn’t thank them in person.”
The hikers met with the two crews of the HH-60G Pave Hawks sent out to recover them and received a tour of the squadron.
“This is the first time that I’ve actually gotten to meet one of the people I’ve rescued,” said Tech Sgt. Matthew Champagne, U.S. Air Force Pararescue School instructor. “We pride ourselves on the motto ‘So that others may live,’ so it’s a very humbling experience to show them what equipment was used to help locate them.”
With four to nine months in training, aircrews spend countless hours preparing for challenging search-and-rescue environments overseas and stateside.
“This rescue was very challenging,” said Lt. Col. Nicholas Dipoma, 512th RQS commander. “Not just any crew would have been able to go out in such inclement weather and lead such a successful mission. I’m very proud of the crew for putting all the nonstop training that we do to use.”