HomeNewsArticle Display

40th HS rescues missing snowmobilers in MT mountains

A UH-1N helicopter with the 40th Helicopter Squadron prepare to land during an integrated recapture and recovery exercise June 11, 2019, at an intercontinental ballistic missile launch facility near Simms, Mont.

A UH-1N helicopter with the 40th Helicopter Squadron prepare to land during an integrated recapture and recovery exercise June 11, 2019, at an intercontinental ballistic missile launch facility near Simms, Mont. A five-man aircrew was responsible for rescuing an elderly snowmobiling couple, with known medical conditions, who became lost during a recreational trip. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob M. Thompson)

MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- A UH-1N Iroquois with a five-man air crew rescued two missing snowmobilers south of Neihart, Montana Jan. 29

The crew responded to King’s Hill, a local recreation site, to locate and retrieve two snowmobilers who were reported missing after the 341st Missile Wing command post received a call around 5:45 a.m.

The Cascade County Sheriff’s Office requested assistance in locating a 75-year-old and a 71-year-old, with known medical conditions, who became lost during a snowmobiling trip.

The 40th Helicopter Squadron then dispatched pilots Maj. Nicholas Morris and Maj. Derek Winkler; flight engineers Master Sgt. Joe Cox and Tech. Sgt. Drew Lambert; and 341st Medical Group medical technician Staff Sgt. Tim Rohlfing.

Once in the air, the crew’s goal was to search for, and if necessary, recover the missing snowmobilers from the Little Belt Mountains.

“Weather was good on base, but in the mountains, the mountain-tops were obscured by clouds,” said Maj. Jeffrey Miser, 40th HS assistant director of operations. “At high altitudes, the clouds were a factor.”

While the temperature was above freezing at Malmstrom Air Force Base, the search area was almost 10 degrees colder.

Once the helicopter crew arrived at the Little Belt Mountains, they met with CCSO and Meahger County sheriffs at the snowmobile trailhead.

The crew picked up trail groomer personnel, as they were most knowledgeable of the mountain’s terrain, and followed the trails by air in an attempt to locate the missing snowmobilers.

As the trails elevated, the terrain became more and more engulfed by clouds, causing the helicopter crew to divert from the search route.

To combat the low visibility, the aircraft searched below cloud level and followed different water drainages to reach higher altitude as they climbed the mountain.

“The ground search team eventually located the lost snowmobilers - who were in good health – and moved them to lower terrain,” said Miser. “The ground team then heard the helicopter and vectored the crew to the survivors’ location.”

Upon locating each other, the helicopter crew returned the trail groomer personnel to the staging area before resuming recovery of the snowmobilers.

Then, a hoist was used to lower Rohlfing to the survivors to conduct an initial medical assessment: the couple was in good health despite staying overnight in deep snow.

With a combined effort of the multiple state and federal agencies, 40th HS found and transported the snowmobilers to emergency medical personnel for further medical assistance.

“Outstanding job by the 40th HS and the 341st MDG,” said Chief Master Sgt. Ron Harper, 341st MW command chief. “We are extremely proud of our highly-trained personnel with their ability to render aid and provide expedient service to those in need.”

The 40th HS ensures strategic security by providing flexible, rapid-response helicopter airlift support to the 341st MW. The squadron also performs aerial surveillance of Department of Defense strategic weapon conveys and short-notice emergency security forces responses; supports emergency war order taskings and priority personnel and logistical transportation.

The 40th HS has a proud rescue history and currently conducts search and rescue missions in support of the Joint Chiefs of Staff National Search and Rescue plan.

“We’re thrilled to be good neighbors to our community,” said Col. Jennifer Reeves, 341st MW commander. “We are so proud of the men and women of the 40th HS and the 341st MDG who gladly put their lives on the line to facilitate the rescue of our fellow Montanans.”
USAF Comments Policy
If you wish to comment, use the text box below. AF reserves the right to modify this policy at any time.

This is a moderated forum. That means all comments will be reviewed before posting. In addition, we expect that participants will treat each other, as well as our agency and our employees, with respect. We will not post comments that contain abusive or vulgar language, spam, hate speech, personal attacks, violate EEO policy, are offensive to other or similar content. We will not post comments that are spam, are clearly "off topic", promote services or products, infringe copyright protected material, or contain any links that don't contribute to the discussion. Comments that make unsupported accusations will also not be posted. The AF and the AF alone will make a determination as to which comments will be posted. Any references to commercial entities, products, services, or other non-governmental organizations or individuals that remain on the site are provided solely for the information of individuals using this page. These references are not intended to reflect the opinion of the AF, DoD, the United States, or its officers or employees concerning the significance, priority, or importance to be given the referenced entity, product, service, or organization. Such references are not an official or personal endorsement of any product, person, or service, and may not be quoted or reproduced for the purpose of stating or implying AF endorsement or approval of any product, person, or service.

Any comments that report criminal activity including: suicidal behaviour or sexual assault will be reported to appropriate authorities including OSI. This forum is not:

  • This forum is not to be used to report criminal activity. If you have information for law enforcement, please contact OSI or your local police agency.
  • Do not submit unsolicited proposals, or other business ideas or inquiries to this forum. This site is not to be used for contracting or commercial business.
  • This forum may not be used for the submission of any claim, demand, informal or formal complaint, or any other form of legal and/or administrative notice or process, or for the exhaustion of any legal and/or administrative remedy.

AF does not guarantee or warrant that any information posted by individuals on this forum is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. AF may not be able to verify, does not warrant or guarantee, and assumes no liability for anything posted on this website by any other person. AF does not endorse, support or otherwise promote any private or commercial entity or the information, products or services contained on those websites that may be reached through links on our website.

Members of the media are asked to send questions to the public affairs through their normal channels and to refrain from submitting questions here as comments. Reporter questions will not be posted. We recognize that the Web is a 24/7 medium, and your comments are welcome at any time. However, given the need to manage federal resources, moderating and posting of comments will occur during regular business hours Monday through Friday. Comments submitted after hours or on weekends will be read and posted as early as possible; in most cases, this means the next business day.

For the benefit of robust discussion, we ask that comments remain "on-topic." This means that comments will be posted only as it relates to the topic that is being discussed within the blog post. The views expressed on the site by non-federal commentators do not necessarily reflect the official views of the AF or the Federal Government.

To protect your own privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information, such as name, Social Security number, DoD ID number, OSI Case number, phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment. If you do voluntarily include personally identifiable information in your comment, such as your name, that comment may or may not be posted on the page. If your comment is posted, your name will not be redacted or removed. In no circumstances will comments be posted that contain Social Security numbers, DoD ID numbers, OSI case numbers, addresses, email address or phone numbers. The default for the posting of comments is "anonymous", but if you opt not to, any information, including your login name, may be displayed on our site.

Thank you for taking the time to read this comment policy. We encourage your participation in our discussion and look forward to an active exchange of ideas.