Mel Nading Search and Rescue Award

The Mel Nading  Search and Rescue Award recognizes the exemplary service of ASARA member volunteers performing search and rescue operations either on an individual or team level in difficult, dangerous, or complex situations while going above and beyond the call of duty associated with routine SAR missions.

On March 30, 2013, late in the evening, Alaska State Troopers Helo-1 went down after successfully rescuing a stranded snowmachiner in the Talkeetna Mountains near Talkeetna, Alaska. Tragically, all aboard were lost: Pilot Mel Nading, Trooper Tage Toll, and the rescued subject.

Mel flew over 3400 hours for the Alaska State Troopers. He was responsible for over 750 rescues and medivacs of lost and missing persons across the state of Alaska and received many awards including the Governor’s Denali Peak Performance and a Commendation for Meritorious Services in 2008.

The hearts of those in the SAR community will always be with the Nading family. ASARA's annual award for SAR excellence is given in the spirit of remembrance to Mel Nading's selfless service to the people of Alaska.

SUBMISSIONS:  Submissions should be sent to . Submissions will be accepted during January through March for SAR operations during the prior year, January 1st through December 31st.  Submission length should be kept to no more than 500 words (normally one full single-spaced page of text) describing:

• Who was involved?
• Where it took place?
• How this volunteer or team meets one or more of the following criteria?

Additional supplemental materials such as associated reports, photographs, and other related materials that are releasable to the public may be provided. Materials that are law enforcement sensitive will be retained within appropriate law enforcement agencies and may be considered as the Alaska State Troopers determine is appropriate.


1. Professionally performing in a SAR mission that was difficult, complex, dangerous, or lengthy, because of the terrain, the weather, the subject's condition.
2. Exhibiting outstanding innovation and/or leadership in a SAR mission.
3. Promoting safety of all SAR responders in difficult or dangerous conditions on a SAR mission.
4. Going beyond the normal day to day SAR response, whether it is a search, a rescue, or a recovery to bring the SAR mission to a successful conclusion under difficult circumstances.
5. Actions during a SAR mission that set a positive example or high standard of care and commitment to the principles of SAR..."these things we do, that others may live."

Volunteer teams put forth extraordinary efforts each day, but what makes this mission remarkable, memorable, and exceptional. Something exemplary is so good that it is an example for others to follow.

TIMELINE: ASARA will accept submissions during the first quarter of  each calendar year with the award being presented to the individual / organization soon after as determined by the ASARA President and Directors. (i.e. ASARA scheduled Director’s Meeting, individual / organization meeting, etc.) 

AWARD: A plaque will be given acknowledging the efforts of the individual(s) and/or the team recognized for their “Exemplary SAR Practice.” A grant of $1,000 will be awarded to the recipient ASARA operational organizational member team for the purpose of training and or equipment purchase. (Individual award winners are not normally presented with grant funding).

COMMITTEE: The award committee will be given all submissions March 31st with a decision submitted to the ASARA Directors by April 15th. The committee will normally consist of the Alaska State Trooper SAR Coordinator, the Director or Superintendent of the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center, a member of the Nading family, Craig McDonald (one of ASARA's founding directors), and one other sitting ASARA Director. The committee will consider all submissions and award the individual or team that they all agree meets “exemplary practice” in search and rescue efforts. The committee must be unanimous in it’s decision. Although submissions will be accepted yearly, there may be years the committee decides submissions did not meet the standard this award is purposing to recognize. 

FUNDS: Funds for this award will be accounted for under the “Mel Nading Award” in the ASARA membership account. Funds for the award have been graciously donated by Denise Nading.


2013 – Pat Dryer lead a technical team via helo insertion in steep forested terrain near Petersburg to stabilize an aircraft and recover the remains.

2014 – Ron Sheardown responded to an R44 mayday call flying extrication equipment, 1st aid supplies and two volunteers to a ridge top 28 miles from Kotzebue. The responding Air National Guard helo did not have the necessary extrication equipment and without Ron’s foresight the two severely injured men would have remained trapped and exposed while the Air Guard helo returned for the necessary equipment. The men were ultimately safely extricated and evacuated to Kotzebue.

2015 – Jeremy Lilly for efforts on two missions. The first was on Matanuska Peak evacuating three injured men from the mountain during a nighttime operation, one with a closed femur fracture. The other mission was an assist with Juneau Mountain Rescue for an aircraft crash near Point Howard.

2018 – Alaska Incident Management Team for SAR for managing a seven-day search in Kotzebue for Ashley Barr-Johnson. This mission involved coordinating multiple search resources including North Slope Borough helo, USCG helo, overflight by Alaska Wildlife troopers, NOAA aircraft with IR capability, K9, ATV, watercraft SONAR with underwater camera capabilities.

2019 – Alaska Mountain Rescue Group for a Mount Marathon mission to assist two stranded hikers in a steep gully. After several hours of traversing difficult vegetated terrain guided by AST helo overhead two rescuers accessed the subjects. A determination was made that due to hazardous terrain features a Pavehawk hoist was requested and successfully removed subjects and rescuers.

2021– Alaska Dive Search, Rescue and Recovery Team for search efforts in Big Lake July 4, 2021 and continued efforts including dangerous ice diving throughout the winter.

2022 – Juneau Mountain Rescue for responding to five rescue missions in a 48-hour period involving complex, lengthy rescues in difficult terrain and dangerous weather conditions.