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U.S. Air Force Helicopter History
Richard “The Bagger” Allen Harder, MSgt., USAFOctober 07, 1952 – November 21, 1996
He was a Portland Firefighter and Paramedic.He was a member of the 304th Air Force Rescue/Recovery Reserve Squadron.
He is the “World Famous Bagger”.“Who Loves Ya, Baby?”“Tell me a story!”
Flags will be flown at half-mast at Fire Bureau buildings throughout Portland this weekend, in deserved recognition of a member of this community who gave far more than he received and far more than his often-hazardous job demanded.
Richard A. “Rick” Harder, 44, died in training Thursday, part of the regimen he put himself through regularly to be the best he could be at what he did. And what he did went well beyond his duties and challenges as a Portland firefighter/paramedic.
“To the more than 300 people he rescued from plane crashes, climbing mishaps and traffic accidents, he was simply the man who saved their lives.”
The 1971 Marshall High School graduate flew as an Air Force Reserve pararescue specialist with the 304th Rescue Squadron of the 939th Rescue Wing. He perhaps is best known as the man who coordinated the rescue of the Oregon Episcopal School climbers lost in May 1986 on Mount Hood after bad weather closed in.
He also was a member of the crew that parachuted out of an airplane over the Pacific Ocean in 1992 to help the stricken captain of a Filipino cargo ship, 500 miles west of Astoria.
Master Sgt. Harder was in charge of the rescue wing’s pararescue training and qualifying.
His family, friends, fellow firefighters and pararescue specialists will mourn him. We join them, for he was a model for courage, public service, professionalism and performance, often in hazardous, extremely dangerous circumstances.
The Oregonian, (Portland, OR) on Monday, November 25, 1996
More than 1,500 gather to salute Richard Harder and his dramatic rescues. If you believe in angels, you believed in The Bagger.
For hundreds of people, Richard A. Harder, known best by the unlikely moniker “The Bagger”, was an angel of deliverance, dropping from the sky in a parachute, jumping into the churning surf from a helicopter, rappelling down a crevasse on a Mount Hood glacier or pulling up to the scene of a wreck in an ambulance. He saved an estimated 300 people in his nearly 20 years in emergency medical care.
More than 1,500 friends showed up Tuesday morning to say goodbye to Harder, whose death last week from a heart attack opened a tragic chapter for Portland’s rescue community.
Harder was a paramedic-firefighter with the Portland Fire Bureau and a pararescue expert with the Air Force Reserve’s elite 304th Rescue and Recovery Squadron. His death, during a routine, rigorous workout, came one day before 10 fliers with the 304th died when their cargo plane apparently lost power and crashed into the Pacific Ocean off Northern California. One crewman survived.
Although Harder saved hundreds of people and gained a national reputation for his skill, he was stuck with the nickname “The Bagger” after his first 24 rescue attempts were too late to save the victim.
“I would put my faith in him,” Capt. Phillip Waible, chaplain for the 939th Air Force Rescue Wing, told the mourners. “I would put my life in his hands.”
During Harder’s career, he pulled victims from the steaming ash of Mount St. Helens and from the snows of Mount Hood. He helped put together the rescue plan for the first space shuttle, and was at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y., in case of an emergency. His legendary rescue attempts included rescuing a freighter skipper from the Pacific, nearly 500 miles off the Oregon coast.
But he didn’t do it for the headlines, his friends said. The Bagger did it because he had a gift, and the drive, and was able to make decisions to save lives quickly. During a mission, he was a no-nonsense commander who demanded the best from his crew. He often didn’t make friends, but he saved lives.
Friends and admirers filled the Oregon Conference Center near Portland International Airport as they tried to come to terms with Harder’s death at age 44. They showed up in pickups and firetrucks, wearing blue jeans and military dress blues. Many left with reddened eyes.
Harder was remembered as a devoted husband and father who bragged he was “living the dream” with his family and job.
“He had an endless reserve of energy and drive,” said his co-worker and friend John Harkness.
Randy Leonard, a lieutenant with the Portland Fire Bureau, described Harder as a man who loved what he did and the people he worked with. He was sensitive to the pressures they worked under and helped them get through tough times.
“It seems unfair that a man who saved so many lives should die of a heart attack,” said the Rev. Julie S. Hanada-Lee of the Oregon Buddhist Temple, who officiated at the service. She gave Harder the Buddhist name Shaku Shin Riki, to honor his giving heart and inner strength.
The parking lot was crammed with police cars and pumpers and ladder trucks from Portland, Beaverton, Gresham, Gladstone and other suburban departments. At the end of the funeral, they formed a procession that was nearly two miles long for the slow trip to Willamette National Cemetery, where Harder was buried.
The procession wound through the industrial area near Columbia Boulevard and passed by the Portland Air Base, where the 304th is stationed. Trucks at fire stations along the route had been pulled to the curb, with their lights flashing and the station crews lining the sidewalk.
At Portland International Airport, rescue equipment was stationed at the east end of the runway, shooting columns of water in a farewell salute to The Bagger.
The Oregonian, (Portland, OR) on Wednesday, November 27, 1996
MSGT, US AIR FORCE
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