A brown bear attacked a National Guard soldier at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. The guardsman was reported to be in stable condition. (Don Emmert / AFP via Getty Images)
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A safety briefing that included what to do during a brown bear encounter likely saved a guardsman’s life Sunday in Alaska.
Base officials did not make Sgt. Lucas Wendeborn, available for media interviews, but in a video provided by his mother to KTUU-TV, the sergeant kept it brief from his hospital bed: “I’ve had better days. I got my ass chewed out by a bear, but I'm doing OK now.”
Wendeborn, 26, crossed paths with a brown bear and her two cubs during a land navigation exercise at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. He made eye contact with the animal and immediately fell to the ground, playing dead, according to a Monday news release from the base. The bear “picked him up by the hip and tossed him,” the release states, also biting and swatting Wendeborn before wandering off.
The sergeant, assigned to 1st Squadron, 297th Cavalry Regiment, stayed down for 15 to 30 seconds, according to the release, then blew his safety whistle and headed out of the dense woods that hosted the exercise.
Medics on the course found him, stabilized him and transferred him to the base hospital, where he was treated for wounds to his shoulder, back, chest, ribs and other areas. He remained in the hospital in “stable, non-life-threatening condition” as of Monday evening, according to the release.
“Sgt. Wendeborn said this was a textbook example of a worst-case scenario,” Sgt. Maj. Alan Feaster, commandant for the 207th Multi-Functional Training Regiment, which oversaw the training, said in the release. “He said, ‘I remember exactly what I was told [in the safety brief] and I did exactly what I was told, and it probably saved my life.’ ”
KTUU-TV, which first reported Sunday’s attack, reported a similar attack on the base in May, when Jessica Gamboa was attacked while jogging with her soldier-husband on a weekend afternoon.