JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska – Col. Eric Overturf, 477th Fighter Group commander, releases an American bald eagle back into the wild Aug. 15. (Photo by Airman 1st Class Christopher Gross/JBER PAO)
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska – Col. Eric Overturf, 477th Fighter Group commander, prepares to release an American bald eagle back into the wild Aug. 15. (Photo by Airman 1st Class Christopher Gross/JBER PAO)
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska – Col. Eric Overturf, 477th Fighter Group commander, talks to the crowd about an American Bald Eagle he is set to release back into the wild, Aug. 15. (Photo by Airman 1st Class Christopher Gross/JBER PAO)
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska – Col. Eric Overturf, 477th Fighter Group commander, receives a brief of what will happen during the American Bald Eagle release, Aug. 15, from Dave Dorsey, Bird Treatment and Learning Center, Anchorage. (Photo by Airman 1st Class Christopher Gross/JBER PAO)
8/17/2010 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- The men and women of the 477th Fighter Group, Arctic Reservists, showed that they were ready to take flight as a relatively new unit by releasing an American bald eagle back into the wild during their annual picnic Aug. 15. The release is symbolic of the unit's growth since its stand-up in 2007, said Col. Eric Overturf, 477th FG commander.
"Although we are a relatively new unit, our contribution to the 3rd Wing and Air Force mission has well surpassed expectations. We are confident that as we grow and continue to fill our ranks over the next few years with quality people that we will continue to soar to excellence," the colonel said.
Since the initiation of the group about three years ago, it seems that nearly all the kinks have been worked out and the group is fully prepared to handle whatever may come its way, Colonel Overturf said.
"As part of our annual picnic, we wanted to do something that symbolized our group," said Colonel Overturf. "(We worked on) getting an eagle to release that was ready to take flight, which is symbolic. It's kind of like our group has taken flight, to lay the foundation for Total Force Integration. JBER (Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson) is ready to take flight."
The eagle the unit released was three years old, without the traditional white head and tail feathers, which the eagle normally gets around its fifth year when it's fully matured, according to Dave Dorsey from the Bird Treatment and Learning Center in Anchorage.
This eagle was found in February of this year on a river bank in Dillingham, Alaska, soaked and wet, Mr. Dorsey said. The eagle had probably eaten too much ,which is common with young raptors when they come across a good food source, he said. After gorging herself, she was too full to fly and fell to the river bank.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game recovered the bird, sending it to the rehabilitation center in Anchorage, where the eagle was kept for several months. She spent her time resting and recuperating until she was able to fully operate on her own.
The Bird TLC takes in more bald eagles than any other bird rehabilitation center in the country. This year they have taken in 45 bald eagles, but that's not all they take in. They rescue and rehabilitate nearly any type of species of bird, from the smallest chickadee to the biggest, which is the American bald eagle.
"We get everything from car hits, to being caught in traps, to (being) shot," Mr. Dorsey said.
Any bird they get it is a challenge, he said.
It's hard because when they come in they can't tell you what's wrong, so the rehabilitators have to go about it themselves and speculate what happened and then treat the birds accordingly, he said.
The center has different stages a bird goes through, depending on the severity of their injury. There's even an intensive care unit available.
"The release is the final stage of the rehabilitation process," Mr. Dorsey said.
"It's just a cool feeling, you can't explain it much more than that," he added.
Colonel Overturf said he feels very fortunate to live here because of the opportunities like this.
"I think we're all very blessed to be able to live here in Alaska, where you can see and be so close to nature and be able to help," Colonel Overturf said.
The Bird TLC center is a non-profit organization which takes volunteers. If interested in learning more about the rehabilitation center, people can visit their Web site at www.birdtlc.net.