HomeNewsArticle Display

Alaska's military continues Operation Colony Glacier support

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Paul Cocker (left), the Alaskan Command deputy chief of future operations and Operation Colony Glacier project officer, shows local media some of the aircraft debris from the 1952 C-124 Globemaster II accident, June 10, 2015. Each summer since 2012, ALCOM has supported Operation Colony Glacier by removing aircraft debris and assisting in the recovery of human remains to ensure closure for families who have lost loved ones. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. John Gordinier)

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Paul Cocker (left), the Alaskan Command deputy chief of future operations and Operation Colony Glacier project officer, shows local media some of the aircraft debris from the 1952 C-124 Globemaster II accident, June 10, 2015. Each summer since 2012, ALCOM has supported Operation Colony Glacier by removing aircraft debris and assisting in the recovery of human remains to ensure closure for families who have lost loved ones. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. John Gordinier)

An Alaska National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk lands on Colony Glacier June 10, 2015, in order to transport service members back to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. Each summer since 2012, Alaskan Command has supported Operation Colony Glacier by removing aircraft debris and assisting in the recovery of human remains from the 1952 C-124 Globemaster II accident to ensure closure for families who have lost loved ones. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. John Gordinier)

An Alaska National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk lands on Colony Glacier June 10, 2015, in order to transport service members back to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. Each summer since 2012, Alaskan Command has supported Operation Colony Glacier by removing aircraft debris and assisting in the recovery of human remains from the 1952 C-124 Globemaster II accident to ensure closure for families who have lost loved ones. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. John Gordinier)

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska (AFNS) -- Aboard an Alaska National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk, the team breaks through the clouds and acquires the first glimpse of the beauty Alaskan glaciers offer. For many miles, all that is seen is ice 50 to 100 feet high with crevasses highlighted in a light bluish color. Upon landing on the glacier and exiting the helicopter, it doesn't take long to realize a tragedy occurred in this beautiful place -- mangled aircraft debris spread for hundreds of yards.

In November 1952, an Air Force C-124 Globemaster II with 52 passengers and crewmembers aboard took off from McChord Air Force Base, Washington, en route to Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska. As the aircraft neared its destination, volatile weather caused the C-124 to crash into Mount Gannett, less than 40 miles from Elmendorf AFB.

A search party was dispatched to the crash location, a portion of the aircraft's tail was spotted, but the harsh weather conditions and the austere Alaskan environment thwarted efforts and necessitated the suspension of the recovery effort.

The wreckage lay at the base of the mountain upon a glacier, burying all evidence of the crash as well as the hope to recover the service members.

Almost 60 years later, June 9, 2012, an Alaska National Guard Black Hawk crew on a training mission noticed some debris on Colony Glacier. The National Guard sent a team on foot to examine the site and they retrieved items that were identified as being from the C-124 crash.

Since then, every summer during a small window of opportunity, Alaskan Command and Alaska National Guard personnel have been supporting the joint effort of Operation Colony Glacier. ALCOM coordinates mission planning and performs aircraft debris recovery while the Alaska National Guard provides specialists and transportation.

This year, Operation Colony Glacier started June 8, and is scheduled to go until the end of June, weather permitting.

Since the discovery a few years ago, 17 of the 52 Airmen aboard the aircraft have been identified and returned home. Providing closure to families is why many raise their hand at the opportunity to help.

"It is an honor and privilege to be part of this mission ... to possibly provide closure for all the families involved," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Paul Cocker, the ALCOM deputy chief of future operations and Operation Colony Glacier project officer. "We are committed to assisting in the safe recovery of any human remains, personal effects and equipment at the crash site. As with any operation of this nature, great care and consideration for family members will be our first priority in the recovery of remains at the site.

"Our hope and goal is to find and return the remaining 35 service members," Cocker continued. "Our second priority is maintaining our environmental stewardship and cleaning up the aircraft debris."

The Alaskan military team is working together to ensure this mission is completed successfully, he said. This has been a team effort the entire way, with ALCOM, Alaska National Guard, active-duty military members and civilians all combining their various talents toward this mission.

Engage

Facebook Twitter
RT @TeamTyndall: Residents are now inspecting their homes on Tyndall. As reminder, there are numerous helping agencies on base to assist. H…
RT @NASA: Hear from @AstroHague as he answers your questions for the first time since his trip to @Space_Station was aborted last Thursday.…
#Airmen & families are entering @TeamTyndall to inspect living facilities & collect their belongings. All other are… https://t.co/Q5DrLeCCSR
RT @TeamTyndall: Chaplains, mental health experts, first sergeants, and other support agencies are preparing to receive Airmen returning to…
RT @HQUSAFEPA: "This is a sad day for the US & Ukraine. Our deepest condolences go out to the family, friends & fellow Airmen of both the U…
The #AirForce director of civil engineering praised #Airmen & our joint partners on their collaborative work during… https://t.co/nSQE09xwfZ
RT @LeeHudson_: #USAF officials say all of the #F22 aircraft left during the storm are repairable.
Now this is what #resilience looks like! With the support of #TotalForce #Airmen around the #AirForce,… https://t.co/oiLqSFcH0W
RT @HQUSAFEPA: We are aware of a Ukrainian Su-27UB fighter aircraft that crashed in the Khmelnytskyi region during Clear Sky 2018 today inv…
Phase two of @TeamTyndall recovery efforts has begun. #Airmen & dependents will have limited access to the base to… https://t.co/AVQQZf4RQP
This is the @USAF_ACC Crisis Action Team in action! Hundreds of #Airmen are working 24/7 to get @TeamTyndall the fo… https://t.co/NR2NBOWMAA
RT @TeamTyndall: Crews are working throughout Tyndall to clear roads, safe down powered lines and inspect buildings so Team Tyndall may ret…
Recovery efforts are currently underway at @TeamTyndall. This map will provide real-time information as facility as… https://t.co/E0ohjEOtJE
Visitors from the sky! For the first time in 51 years, @RamsteinAirBase #parajumpers dropped in on Chièvres Air Bas… https://t.co/LCptd76A0a
RT @Oriana0214: TONIGHT FROM MATTIS: "Right now the initial review yesterday by @SecAFOfficial, coming on 48 hours due by Air Combat Comman…
RT @USAF_ACC: F-22 #Raptors stationed at @TeamTyndall that were evacuated to @WrightPattAFB ahead of #HurricaneMichael arrived at @JBLEnews
After #HurricaneMichael, Airmen from @Travis60AMW's 821st Contingency Response Group received the call and headed o… https://t.co/s9dOR5Mpz3
RT @TeamEglin: cont. President @realDonaldTrump drops in @TeamEglin on his way to see #HurricaneMichael damage. The President met w/ #Flori