UNSEEN - a portrait of uncommon warriors
For an eight month period I had the privilege to observe and talk with the men and women who work for the Alaska 210th and 212th rescue squadrons. I met with highly specialized aviation mechanics, parachute riggers, weapons experts, and medical personnel.
Rescuers are a unique breed, standing in harms way to help people they often don’t even know. And regardless if they are successful or not, rescuers inherit the sometimes graphic memories of the circumstances for which they are tasked with responding.
The impetus to risk life and limb seems to extend well beyond the rescuers actual job description. Military rescuers especially, are part of a tribe of warriors who possess an ancient kind of courage.
Deciding to do dangerous work for a living is easy, just like getting killed is easy. More challenging is the vetting process and the years of training necessary to be a true rescue professional. In other words it takes a great deal of skill and discipline to learn the craft of calculated risk taking. It's the year-after-year practice that helps prepare an individual to make good decisions under immense psychological and often physical pressure, the kind of training that also helps prepare the mind and body to do the impossible.
For an eight month period I had the privilege to observe and talk with the men and women who work for the Alaska 210th and 212th rescue squadrons. I met with highly specialized aviation mechanics, parachute riggers, weapons experts, and medical personnel. I spent time at the Rescue Coordination Center which is the central hub for orchestrating the initial response to emergencies. I watched intense warfare training that included pararescuemen and combat rescue officers. And I flew on hair-raising missions with incredibly talented helicopter pilots and their equally capable crew members.
I was constantly reminded of a paradox—observing highly skilled individuals doing complex tasks inextricably associated with risk of harm or death, who outside of that environment appeared deceptively ordinary. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things—but not without sacrifices, in some cases significant ones.
These images and words are my observations.
I'd love to hear your thoughts about this collection of images.
Please feel free to drop me a note.