A few days ago, the Air Force’s elite Air Commandos once more proved their worth by saving the life of a 16-year-old hiker who had gotten lost in Mt. St. Helens, Washington State.

On September 28, the boy had gone hiking with his mother and 13-year-old sister in the Hummocks Trailhead of Mt. St. Helens. During a bathroom stop, he was separated from them. His mother and sister tried to find him but to no avail. As the hours began to pass, they called the local authorities.

A 12-man search-and-rescue team comprised of Pararescuemen and Survival, Escape, Resistance, and Evasion (SERE) specialists from the 304th Rescue Squadron was called up to assist the local Cowlitz County Sheriff’s department in locating the missing teen.

By the point that the team gathered for its briefing and mission planning, the 16-year-old had been missing for more than 30 hours.

“I was really impressed with all the rescue organizations and volunteers,” said Senior Airman Joseph, a recently qualified Pararescueman, in a press release. “I thought the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s did a great job organizing and coordinated the search efforts. For me, it was a good first mission that opened up a lot of opportunities for integrative experiences with other official search and rescue groups.”

Air Force save hiker
The 304th Rescue Squadron participated in the successful rescue of a 16-year-old male who was missing for more than 30 hours near Mt. St. Helens. (Photo by 943rd Public Affairs).

The hike toward the place where the teen had gone lost was arduous. Steep, rugged terrain surrounded by ponds and marshes made the Guardian Angels’ work tough. According to the local sheriff, people are known to have been stuck on those marshes for days on end. The terrain was so rough that not even the team’s specialized SXV and ATV off-road vehicles could be of any assistance.

In the end, a rescue dog assigned to the team managed to find the missing teen at night. The boy had climbed on a tree after falling from a cliff and getting accosted by wildlife. He only had minor injuries and was able to get out without any medical assistance.

What makes these rescues remarkable is the fact that the Pararescuemen and SERE specialists who conducted them are serving part-time and have other full-time jobs.