On March 2, Air Force crewmen from the 64th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron launched an extensive SAR operation that involved F-16s, helicopter drops, and ground crews who fanned out into the wilderness in a massive effort to find and safely rescue two American teachers out hiking. They were successful, but rescuers had an especially tough time coping with the steep slopes of the mountain:
"We searched for the hikers for about 30 minutes, talked to the group on the ground, started running low on fuel and had to go refuel, then came back and were able to locate them," Lieutenant (Evan) Scaggs said. "It took us a while because they were in an area where one side of this mountain was at an 80 degree angle and the other side was a 90 degree angle, so it was hard to see them unless you came in at just the right direction."
Was this daring rescue in Yosemite? Glacier? Alaska?
The article is long on the logistical details of rescuing the stranded teacher-hikers, who emerged unscathed after spending a cold night 4,700 feet up the side of a mountain in Iraq. Air Force teams scrambled from Balad Air Force base, over 120 miles away.
What the article doesn't say is how the two teachers chose to go hiking in Iraq, how they chose their location, or how they got lost — though I imagine the topos for the region are probably pretty weak.
Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever seen a copy of "Falcon Guides: Hiking Fallujah" in my local REI. Crazy.
— Ted Alvarez