National Guard April 2012 : Page 88
STATE ROUNDUP Midseason Form Quick Guard reaction helps communities in several states begin to recover after a rash of powerful, early season tornadoes 88 HILE THE RECENT unsea-sonably warm weather across much of the country was great for those wanting to escape cabin fever, it brought with it an early start to tor-nado season. Even before buds appeared on trees in many places, tornadoes leveled them in several states. Twisters struck communities in states from the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes between Feb. 29 and March 2, including Ala-bama, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Mis-souri and West Virginia. At least 39 people died, many more were injured and hundreds more were left temporarily homeless in areas W | Na tional Guard
WHILE THE RECENT unseasonably warm weather across much of the country was great for those wanting to escape cabin fever, it brought with it an early start to tornado season.<br /> <br /> Even before buds appeared on trees in many places, tornadoes leveled them in several states. Twisters struck communities in states from the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes between Feb. 29 and March 2, including Alabama, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and West Virginia.<br /> <br /> At least 39 people died, many more were injured and hundreds more were left temporarily homeless in areas More accustomed to blizzards than tornadoes in late winter.<br /> <br /> But there was nothing unseasonable about the National Guard’s response in those states, where hundreds of citizen- soldiers and airmen responded to help communities quite literally pick up the pieces after the severe weather.<br /> <br /> More than 700 Guardsmen supported civilian authorities following the storms, with many of the troops arriving on scene at a near-record pace.<br /> <br /> Civilian authorities in Kentucky noted how fast the Guard had boots on the ground after the twisters struck.<br /> <br /> “The deployment of the National Guard was one of the most timely deployments of Guardsmen I’ve ever seen,” said Kentucky State Trooper Capt. Scott Miller. “The soldiers were ready to go within hours.”<br /> <br /> Damage was severe in the Bluegrass State. After a ride with Guardsmen in a UH-60 Black Hawk, Kentucky Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson declared that he had “never seen anything as devastating as I saw today.” <br /> <br /> Kentucky Guardsmen engaged in missions ranging from security to search and rescue. One unit, the 301st Chemical Company, was searching in West Liberty for any victims who might have been trapped in the remains of the flattened town.<br /> <br /> “The look on people’s faces when they see they’ve lost everything they own tugs at you,” said Staff Sgt. Michael Dement, a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist with the 301st.<br /> <br /> Not long after Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon mobilized the Guard, soldiers were aiding the Branson Police Department and the Taney County Sherriff’s Department through presence patrols.<br /> <br /> Spc. Timothy Barten, a member of the 276th Engineer Company in Pierce City, Mo., hoped to be called by the Guard to assist in nearby Joplin in May Of last year, but other units were used before he got the chance, he said.<br /> <br /> “People are helping each other,” he said of clean-up following the tornado.<br /> <br /> Sgt. Brandon Lewis served for a year in Afghanistan and said he was looking forward to serving his home state.<br /> <br /> “This is one of the things you sign up for, both defending the country and the citizens of our state,” Lewis said.<br /> <br /> Search and rescue also was a priority in West Virginia. On March 2, Janet Lynn Porterfield, a resident of Kiahsville, watched the hook of a tornado begin to develop on her television screen. Then she heard the roar of the twister as it approached her house.<br /> <br /> “It was the worst minute of my life,” Porterfield said. “I wondered whether March was going to come in as a lamb or a lion and on the second day, it came in roaring.” <br /> <br /> The following morning, Porterfield’s nephew began the long hike out of their devastated valley with his wife and two children to seek help. Porterfield, suffering from arthritis, was unable to make the trek. She remained in her home without food, water or power.<br /> <br /> Members of the West Virginia Army Guard’s 821st Engineer Company had already received a report about Porterfield.<br /> <br /> “A few Department of Highway guys told us that an elderly woman was stranded in her house,” said Spc.Shaun Olds, a member of the unit.<br /> <br /> After two days of clearing trees from the road, Olds was able to drive a Humvee all the way to the house to pick up Porterfield and bring her to safety.<br /> <br /> “She was very excited when she saw the Humvee,” Olds said. “She thanked us repeatedly, but we were just glad to see she was OK and in good spirits.” <br /> <br /> Indiana mobilized more than 250 soldiers to help with recovery, many of whom arrived just hours after the storms ended.<br /> <br /> Much of the Indiana Guard effort was focused on the southern Indiana town of Henryville, which looked like a war zone after its encounter with the 175-mph winds of an EF-4 tornado.<br /> <br /> “Once again, Mother Nature has dealt harshly with Indiana,” said Gov.Mitch Daniels. “I can’t tell you how proud and impressed I am with the local response of the National Guard and others.” <br /> <br /> Emergency management officials from the states praised the Guard for its quick response and ability to work well with local first responders.<br /> <br /> “The Guard is crucial to what we do,” said Stephanie Robey, manager of the Kentucky Department of Emergency Management’s recovery branch.“Our partnership is crucial to protecting public interest, people and property.”<br /> <br /> —Compiled from state reports<br /> <br /> Texas<br /> <br /> Adventurers: ASOS Members Prep for Real-World Missions<br /> <br /> As any member of the 147th Air Support Operations Squadron (ASOS) can probably attest, a certain lust for adventure seems a prerequisite for entering the Air Force’s tactical air control party (TACP) career field.<br /> <br /> After all, the responsibility for coordinating air strikes on the frontlines of the battlefield is not for the faint of heart.<br /> <br /> The Texas Air National Guard unit’s TACPs spent two weeks in February indulging that lust during a combat readiness exercise in Savannah, Ga., during Global Guardian. The exercise included Guardsmen and active-component members, as well as personnel from the Canadian and Dutch armed forces.<br /> <br /> Training encompassed a wide range of scenarios designed to test the participants in order to better equip them to handle real-world situations of catastrophic proportions.<br /> <br /> “It’s the first of its kind,” said a senior airman named Charles, who is a joint terminal attack controller for the 147th.<br /> <br /> The ASOS troops asked that last names not be used.<br /> <br /> “It’s going to be integration between Army and Air Force,” Charles said. “It’s going to be an air-to-air war with the Air Force coming in and doing a casualty evacuation while the other forces provide trauma aid. We’re going to be doing the air-to-ground role by calling in close-air support for the ground troops.” <br /> <br /> Global Guardian also marked a significant milestone for the ASOS members.It was their first jump as a unit.<br /> <br /> For a staff sergeant named Nathan, the chance to hone his newly acquired TACP skills was just what he’d been waiting for.<br /> <br /> “This is a learning experience for me,” he said before the exercise. “I’m really excited to actually go out there and participate in something new.” <br /> <br /> —By Senior Airman Mindy Bloem <br /> <br /> Georgia <br /> <br /> Troops in Afghanistan Welcome Visit From Bulgarian President <br /> <br /> Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev spoke with members of the 648th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade while visiting deployed Bulgarian soldiers at Camp Phoenix in Kabul, Afghanistan, Feb. 29.<br /> <br /> The new Bulgarian leader said he came to Afghanistan to express his appreciation, not only to his country’s forces, but to the U.S. military.<br /> <br /> “Thank you for what you’re doing for our people,” he said to the Georgia Army National Guardsmen. “Thank you for helping the Bulgarian army integrate within the most eff ective family of military.<br /> <br /> “I came here also because I hope that the other colleagues will come the same way.” <br /> <br /> Col. Andy Hall, the commander of 648th and Task Force Hydra, the Kabul Base Cluster Command, said he was honored to sit down with Plevneliev.<br /> <br /> “Strong coalition partnerships are very important,” he said, “and it means a lot when the president of a country Makes it a priority to experience what it’s like on the ground for his soldiers.” <br /> <br /> The visit came days before a series of Bulgarian celebrations, such as the Baba Marta, or “Grandmother March,” a celebration on March 1 that welcomes spring, and Liberation Day March 3.<br /> <br /> Plevneliev, who was elected in October and took offi ce Jan. 18, met with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai before traveling to Camp Phoenix to meet the troops.<br /> <br /> Bulgaria has 614 soldiers, army instructors and military doctors in NATO’s U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.<br /> <br /> —By Master Sgt. Janet Hill<br /> <br /> North Dakota <br /> <br /> Sweet Music: Band Members Take Home Top Army Awards <br /> <br /> Two soldiers from the North Dakota Army National Guard’s 188th Army Band were honored as top Army musicians in a ceremony in February.<br /> <br /> Sgt. DeAnn Fylling was named 2011 Reserve Component Army Band Junior Noncommissioned Offi cer of the Year, while Spc. Aaron Bedford was Runner-up for the 2011 Reserve Component Army Band Soldier of the Year.<br /> <br /> The Band Soldier of the Year contest is an annual event to recognize the most outstanding musicians in the Army. The competition evaluates candidates’ leadership abilities, artistic integrity, military accomplishments and organizational and planning skills. A candidate must excel in musical proficiency and physical fitness to qualify for the competition.<br /> <br /> “It’s extremely gratifying to have other band leaders validate my opinions of these soldiers,” said Warrant Officer Dave Stordalen, the 188th Army Band commander. “They excelled at every category of the competition.” <br /> <br /> Fylling joined the Guard in 2001 and is a saxophonist for the band.<br /> <br /> “I was very surprised that I won,” Fylling said. “I knew that it was an Army-wide competition and that lots of noncommissioned officers would be competing. It was really just a shot in the dark. I wanted to know where I stood among my peers.”<br /> <br /> Bedford, a percussionist with the band, said the Band Soldier of Year audition was a challenging test.<br /> <br /> “I had to prepare to play mallets, snare drum and drum set,” he said.“The audition tests you on all the categories, from concert and marching music to jazz, funk and country.” <br /> <br /> —North Dakota National Guard report<br /> <br /> California <br /> <br /> Injured Fishermen Rescued From Vessel Off Mexican Coast <br /> <br /> The 129th Rescue Wing rescued two badly burned fishermen on a Chinese vessel 700 miles off the coast of Acapulco, Mexico, last month.<br /> <br /> The California Air National Guard unit received the initial call from the U. S. Coast Guard March 9.<br /> <br /> Long-range, over-water rescues are a unique capability of the 129th. The unit’s HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters feature a retractable in-flight refueling probe so their range exceeds that of other rescue aircraft.<br /> <br /> Maintenance crews began preparing two MC-130P Combat Shadow aircraft and two Pave Hawks for the mission March 10. Logistics personnel loaded rescue equipment into MC-130Ps while the HH-60Gs departed Moffett Field near San Francisco for Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego.<br /> <br /> Since helicopters fly at slower Speeds, they needed a head start for the lengthy mission.<br /> <br /> The rescue phase of the mission began early March 11 when the two MC-130Ps departed Moffett Field. The first MC- 130P headed southwest to the vessel’s location while the second went south to air refuel the HH-60Gs, which had departed San Diego en route to Acapulco.<br /> <br /> Upon arriving at the vessel’s location, four pararescuemen, or Pjs, parachuted off the MC-130P into the Pacific Ocean and boarded an inflatable Zodiac boat. Equipped with medical supplies, the Pjs maneuvered next to the fishing vessel, boarded it and began assessing the injured fishermen.<br /> <br /> Due to the severity of one patient’s burns, the decision was made to transport both patients to a burn center in San Diego.<br /> <br /> Two HH-60Gs and one MC-130P departed Acapulco for the vessel’s location.Upon their arrival, aircrews hoisted the fishermen and Pjs off the boat onto the helicopters hovering above.<br /> <br /> The fishermen were flown to Acapulco for transfer to an aircraft headed to the Marine Corps Air Station in Miramar, Calif, where they would be transported to University of California- San Diego Medical Center.<br /> <br /> “I could not be prouder of our airmen’s extraordinary efforts during this mission,” said Col. Steven J. Butow, the 129th commander. “This mission is a testament to the first-response capabilities our wing provides to California and the nation.” <br /> <br /> —By Capt. Donald G. LeBlanc<br /> <br /> Alabama <br /> <br /> State Partnership With Romania Remains Strong After 18 Years <br /> <br /> Marking the 19th year of cooperation through the State Partnership Program, Alabama National Guardsmen and Romanian military personnel met in Montgomery, Ala., last month for a cultural and informational exchange.<br /> <br /> “The partnership between Alabama and Romania has helped Alabama National Guard soldiers build a knowledge base at the international level,” said Lt. Col. Shannon Hancock, the state’s SPP director. “This helps our soldiers gain knowledge about other countries and areas prior to deploying.” <br /> <br /> Last month’s exchange involved a group from Romania’s Land Force visiting the armory that houses the 231st Military Police Battalion and exchanging information on military vehicles and small-arms weapons policies and procedures.<br /> <br /> Their visit was culturally enriched by a visit to several historical sites in the area and a tour of the state Capitol, providing a brief look at Alabama history.<br /> <br /> “We conduct exchanges of information that help develop both our Alabama National Guard and the Romania military,” Hancock said. “A long-term trusting relationship like [this] cannot be cultivated over night.” <br /> <br /> —Alabama National Guard report<br /> <br /> North Carolina <br /> <br /> Risky Business: Clearing Routes Garners Respect, Saves Lives <br /> <br /> Route clearance is a grueling mission that can be as short as eight hours or as long as several days.<br /> <br /> In Afghanistan, it’s arduous, but also extremely important for ensuring that coalition troops and Afghan civilIans alike are able to travel safely from place to place.<br /> <br /> It’s a mission known well to members of the 883rd Sapper Company who are deployed to Zabul province, Afghanistan.<br /> <br /> “You have to have a lot of respect for these guys,” said Capt. James McVeigh, the commander of the North Carolina Army National Guard outfit. “They sit in these vehicles for over eight hours seeing the same terrain day after day.They’re putting their lives on the line to ensure the safety of others, ‘Always out front’ as one of the Sapper mottoes goes.”<br /> <br /> A day in the life of a route-clearance unit starts early, often before dawn, with mission briefs and breakfast. After vehicles are prepared, the troops hit the road.<br /> <br /> Soldiers drive armored vehicles packed with gear to detect improvised explosive devices and to communicate with other vehicles in the convoy.<br /> <br /> During the missions, the drivers have to operate at a deliberate speed to ensure they are capable of locating and identifying IEDs or other threats along the route. The dawdling speed has proven crucial to saving lives, not only their own, but those of the coalition forces who count on the Sappers to clear their paths.<br /> <br /> Whenever the convoy stops or comes across suspicious items, a team Member must leave the safety of the vehicle and walk the terrain in order to get a closer look at the area.<br /> <br /> It’s all tough, dangerous work. But it also can be very satisfying.<br /> <br /> “I really love this job,” said Spc.Samuel Carlin, a member of the unit’s second platoon. “I hate the days when I’m not out on patrols,” <br /> <br /> — By 2nd Lt. Jessica Jackson<br /> <br /> Missouri <br /> <br /> Physical Test: State Holds First Air Assault Course <br /> <br /> More than 100 soldiers and airmen graduated from the Missouri National Guard’s first air assault school, held at Camp Crowder in Neosho, Mo., Feb. 28 to March 9.<br /> <br /> Often referred to as the hardest 11 days in the Army, the school tests the physical and mental endurance of its students as they learn to conduct air assault operations, including rappelling out of helicopters and sling loading various equipment to be transported by rotary-wing aircraft.<br /> <br /> The school began with 162 hopefuls who dwindled to 126 after the first day—“Zero Day”—when students are put through a grueling physical training regimen that includes completion of a challenging obstacle course.<br /> <br /> From there, 105 made it through sling-load and rappelling training that focuses on attention to detail, as well as Six- and 12-mile road marches to earn their Air Assault Badges.<br /> <br /> The graduates included active, Guard and Reserve service members.Each now has working knowledge of all aircraft in the military, is qualified to conduct sling-load operations and can rappel out of a helicopter.<br /> <br /> “It’s not just a nice-to-have skill, it’s an important skill,” said Col. Wendul Glenn Hagler II, the Missouri Guard chief of staff, who spoke at the graduation ceremony.<br /> <br /> Air assault skills have application in the event of a disaster at home as well as on the battlefield, Hagler said.<br /> <br /> “When you need to move large quantities of equipment, food supplies or water, you are going to need a lot of rotary-wing aircraft to get it to the right spot,” he said. “You’re also going to need folks who can configure it and load it properly.” <br /> <br /> Thirteen Army Guard soldiers with Company B, Warrior Training Center, from Fort Benning, Ga., served as cadre for the course.<br /> <br /> They conduct the school at about 15 locations around the country every year to maximize training opportunities while minimizing travel costs.<br /> <br /> “It’s much cheaper to bring us here,” said Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Wade, an instructor with Fort Benning’s Warrior Training Center.<br /> <br /> —By Matthew J. Wilson
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