National Guard August 2012 : Page 36
STATE ROUNDUP Help From Above Guard air crews provide valuable assistance, but experience tragedy in annual fight against Western wildfires OR SEVERAL WEEKS earlier this summer, it seemed as if a thick cloud of smoke perpetu-ally draped large parts of the Rocky Mountain states as wildﬁres charred large swaths of land. Tens of thousands of acres burned in two Colorado ﬁres, which were fu-eled by high winds and a lack of rain. And other blazes throughout the drought-stricken West kept residents on edge as the ﬂames inched closer to populated areas. The damage, however, was cen-tered in Colorado. The High Park blaze forced the evacuation of many residents in the northern portion of the state near Fort Collins. The Waldo Canyon ﬁre, farther south, threatened the Colorado Springs area. F 36 | Na tional Guard
Help From Above
Guard air crews provide valuable assistance, but experience tragedy in annual fight against Western wildfires
FOR SEVERAL WEEKS earlier this summer, it seemed as if a thick cloud of smoke perpetually draped large parts of the Rocky Mountain states as wildfires charred large swaths of land.
Tens of thousands of acres burned in two Colorado fires, which were fueled by high winds and a lack of rain.
And other blazes throughout the drought-stricken West kept residents on edge as the flames inched closer to populated areas.
The damage, however, was centered in Colorado. The High Park blaze forced the evacuation of many residents in the northern portion of the state near Fort Collins. The Waldo Canyon fire, farther south, threatened the Colorado Springs area.
High winds and dry conditions escalated the Waldo Canyon fire to record-breaking size in Colorado. More than 18,000 acres of land were scorched, some of it so thoroughly that onlookers compared it to photos of the surface of the moon. Two people were killed and 350 homes were destroyed in the worst fire in Colorado history.
Colorado also is where the National Guard centered its annual fire-fighting efforts this year.
Operating from Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., North Carolina’s 145th Airlift Wing, California’s 146th Airlift Wing and Wyoming’s 153th Airlift Wing responded with Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems aboard C-130 Hercules cargo planes to help fight the fires.
MAFFS is a self-contained system owned by the U.S. Forest Service that can discharge 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant in less than five seconds, covering an area one-quarter of a mile long by 100 feet wide.
The USFS has eight such systems fielded among three Guard wings and the Air Force Reserve’s 302nd Airlift Wing from Peterson. They are designed to provide a surge capability to boost wildfire suppression efforts when commercial aircraft are fully committed or aren’t available.
All four wings had both of their MAFFS in the fight.
“We’ve dropped on a lot of really big fires,” said Maj. Neil Harlow, a pilot with the Wyoming Air Guard’s 153rd Airlift Wing. “But nothing we’ve seen like this as far as close proximity to major cities, so you have a little more sense of urgency that we’ve got to get these drops and get them right the first time.”
Heavy smoke made flying not only challenging, but dangerous.
“The smoke, especially down at the Waldo Canyon fire, has made it difficult to see the targets,” said Harlow.
On the ground, more than 150 Colorado Guardsmen provided law enforcement assistance as civilian agencies in the state became overwhelmed with work.
“The big switch came for the police department when National Guard forces got into the fight,” said Colorado Springs Police Chief Peter Carey. “They really helped both our community and our department.”
But Guard contributions to the firefight weren’t limited to Colorado. C- 130s with MAFFS units also flew missions in Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, South Dakota and Wyoming.
In South Dakota, the effort was costly. Four members of 145th Airlift Wing—Lt. Col. Paul K. Mikeal, Maj.
Joseph M. McCormick, Maj. Ryan S. David and Senior Master Sgt. Robert S. Cannon—died when their C-130 went down while a fighting a fire near Edgemont, S. D.
The crash was the first in the 40- year history of the MAFFS program.
It also forced the grounding of the MAFFS fleet for a day, but operations resumed as fires continued to spread.
By early July, efforts on the ground and in the air had the fires under the control in Colorado. But blazes continued to burn in other states, so federal authorities shifted MAFFS crews to Wyoming and later Idaho to be closer to the most active fires.
Between June 24 and July 23 ,Guard and Reserve C-130s with MAFFS flew 315 fire-fighting sorties, discharging 769,952 gallons of retardant.
Guard helicopters also contributed to the firefight. In California, Army Guard UH-60 Black Hawks assisted the California Department of Forest and Fire Protection by dropping thousands of gallons of water on a fire in Placer County.
Helicopter crews put in 14-hour days, with eight hours in the sky. But the long days were nothing new for the experienced aviators.
“The stress that’s involved in flying in combat translates into fighting fires as most pilots have been in combat at least once or twice,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Robert Brockly.
—Compiled from National Guard releases
Arizona, South carolina
Truck Units Move Ammunition During Major Nationwide Event
Army National Guardsmen were among hundreds of troops to hit the road last month as part of a massive logistics operation to move ammunition across the United States.
Operation Golden Cargo, a two week exercise that began July 9, traveled through 10 states and involved more than 2,000 reserve personnel from the Army, Navy and Marine Corps.
The starting point was Blue Grass Army Depot, a munitions storage facility operated by the Army in east central Kentucky. Military truck drivers picked up loads of ammunition and drove them to depots around the country for shipment overseas to support contingency operations.
“It’s more or less the culminating event for Guard and Reserve units. They do a lot of drill weekends throughout the year and this is the culminating event that brings it all together,” said Lt. Col. David Gayle, the commander of the South Carolina National Guard’s 1050th Transportation Battalion and Task Force Wildcat.
The sheer size of the operation and its many elements was an eye-opener for some soldiers.
“It’s all new stuff,” said Pvt. Phil C. England, a truck driver with the Arizona Army Guard’s 1404th Transportation Company. “It’s a completely fresh environment. Nothing that I’m used to.”
The newness extends to his vehicle— a palletized loading system truck, which he had never driven before Golden Cargo.
“It’s a bit of a learning curve, but it was good,” he said.
—By Sgt. Daniel Haun and Staff Sgt. Gary Witte
Life Saver: Retired Helicopter Had Proud History of Service
It was a proud, historic and emotional moment for the soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 149th Aviation, as the last AH- 64A Apache helicopter was “retired” from Army service.
The Texas Army National Guard unit formally handed aircraft 451 over to the Project Office for Apache Helicopters during a ceremony on Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base in Houston July 15.
Chief Warrant Officer 5 Jim Sandberg, the battalion’s standardization pilot, and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Adrian Domonoski, the maintenance test officer, flew the aircraft to San Angelo, Texas, where it will be “depopulated,” or disassembled, then reconfigured into the more advanced AH-64D Apache Longbow.
“It’s like losing an old friend,” said Capt. Stacy James Rostorfer, a company commander in the battalion.
“That aircraft has saved my life. It has saved many lives,” he said. “It’s armored in all the right places, so you can go in, protect others and protect yourself. We always brought everybody home.”
One legendary example unit members are quick to cite occurred in 2007 when the battalion was deployed to Iraq.
An infantryman had been seriously wounded in a firefight. A medevac helicopter was not able to respond, so the crew of aircraft 451 landed and placed the wounded soldier in the front seat. The co-pilot/gunner, who normally occupies that seat, attached himself to the side of the aircraft and they took off for the nearest field hospital.
The wounded soldier survived. For their actions, the pilots received the Distinguished Flying Cross.
“After you get through a couple of weeks in combat, you strap yourself into an Apache, you feel a sense of invincibility,” said Col. Richard Adams, 36th Combat Aviation Brigade commander. “There are a lot of sons and daughters in America who are alive because of that aircraft.”
—By Sofia Bledsoe
Wing Deploys to Afghanistan To Provide Close-Air Support
The 188th Fighter Wing deployed 375 airmen to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, over the last two months to support Operation Enduring Freedom.
The three-month mission is part of an Air Expeditionary Force (AEF) rotation, which the 188th is sharing with the Maryland Air National Guard’s 175th Wing. Both units fly the A-10 Thunderbolt II.
“It’s never easy deploying men and women into combat and we appreciate their sacrifices as well as those made by their families,” said Col. Mark AnDerson, the 188th commander. “We have some of the most highly trained and capable airmen in the Air Force and I have complete confidence that they will focus on the mission and exceed all expectations.”
The first deployment is the first for some members of the 188th and old hat for others.
“You can definitely tell whether or not someone has deployed before,” said Maj. John Easley, the deputy commander of the 188th Maintenance Group.
“The airmen who have never deployed, you can see it in their faces. But we always help each other out and learn from each other. We’re a team over there and we take care of each other. We’ve completed all the training and now it’s time to go over and complete the mission.”
The A-10 mission in Afghanistan involves fl ying close-air support for ground troops who may make contact with the enemy or escorting convoys in particularly hostile areas.
When not directly supporting ground operations, the aircraft patrol designated sectors to provide aerial reconnaissance.
This is the Arkansas Air Guard unit’s second AEF mission since converting from the F-16 Fighting Falcon to the A-10s in 2007. Approximately 300 airmen and 12 A-10Cs served in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in 2010.
The 188th is one of three Air Guard A-10 units the Air Force wanted to eliminate in its fiscal 2012 budget proposal. Lawmakers opposed the action, and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta in June put a halt on all aircraft transfers and retirements through 2013.
—By Maj. Heath Allen
Making Music: Guard Musicians Share Skills with Guyana Band
The 13th Army Band recently participated in a subject-matter expert exchange with the Guyana Defense Force (GDF) Band as part of the National Guard’s State Partnership Program.
The exchange in the South American nation was a follow-up of a meeting last year, which laid the foundation for the development of Guyanese military music and an ongoing partnership between the two bands.
“They’ve come a long way since last year,” said Sgt. 1st Class Seth Innes, a trombonist/pianist in the Florida Army National Guard band. For one, the GDF band graduated its first class of advanced music students from a military music course that featured applied music theory.
The course was designed to standardize the entrance levels and general playing ability of band members. In the past, band candidates often entered the unit with no experience and had to learn the instruments they were handed on their first day of assignment.
“They [recruits] will only keep joining the band if the band is good,” said GDF Warrant Offi cer William Richmond, the senior enlisted band leader. “The band can only get bigger and better with good recruits.”
GDF band members, unlike U.S. military musicians, are primarily infantrymen with other daily responsibilities. They are allotted little time around their schedules to rehearse and perform musical missions.
During this visit, the U.S. band members also off ered advice on recruiting and retention. The GDF is looking to attract more members as it has many Vacant positions for traditional instrumentalists, as well as in their drum corps and steel drum ensemble.
“Your visit here with us will lead to more and better band recruits,” said Oliver Basdeo, a civilian brass instructor of the GDF band.
—By Staff Sgt. Ralph Morales
Answered Prayer: Training Base Welcomes Thunderbird Chapel
While Camp Gruber, a 33,000-acre training facility in eastern Oklahoma, has long been considered a premier place for National Guardsmen to train, it has for nearly 70 years lacked one important facility: a proper chapel.
“I remember we would conduct worship services and counseling in the field, under a tree, in our cars and once in a broom closet,” said Staff Sgt. Erik Wolf. “I joined the Oklahoma Guard in 1995 as a chaplain’s aide and when a soldier needed to talk or we had our weekly service, we had nowhere to go.”
That has all changed, thanks completely to the generosity of people and businesses across Oklahoma. Thunderbird Chapel is open for services. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, a driving force behind the project, dedicated the facility in June.
The 10,500-square-foot chapel with a green metal roof can accommodate up to 200 soldiers and their families.
It was built using donated time and materials. Businesses and volunteers across the state raised more than $1 million and received another $1.2 million in donated materials.
At the forefront of the volunteer force was Gerry Shepherd, the president and CEO of Oklahoma Roofing and Sheet Metal in Oklahoma City, who was the project supervisor.
He said the effort was a race against time to get the chapel ready for the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, which returned from a deployment to Afghanistan earlier this year.
“We had crews working double shifts, nights and weekends. We had to get this done,” Shepherd said. “Any Time we needed anything, I would make a call and we would have it as early as the next day.”
There was even an old-fashioned “barn-raising” to build the chapel’s frame. This allowed work to begin on the interior of the chapel in less than 16 days.
“I will always remember the day we had to have the steeple up by 1:30 p.m. in order to stay on schedule,” Shepherd said. “We got the steeple in place and finished within 40 minutes of the deadline.”
—By Spc. Jason A. Lay
Reaper Unit to be Renamed To Reflect Current Mission
The historic 174th Fighter Wing will become the 174th Attack Wing Sept. 9.
The new designation reflects the change of mission from flying fighter aircraft to operating the MQ-9 Reaper, a remotely piloted aircraft, which the wing has done since December 2009.
The new designation was requested by unit leadership shortly after the unit ended its F-16 Fighting Falcon mission with the last F-16 departing Syracuse in March 2010.
“When we ended our proud 60-year history of flying fighter aircraft, it was decided to request a change in our designation to more closely align with our new mission,” said Col. Greg Semmel, the wing commander. “We selected the ‘Attack’ designation because it mirrors the organization nomenclature already used by all three Air Force active-duty MQ-9 squadrons.”
Along with the change in name of the wing, the 138th Fighter Squadron, a suborganization under the wing that operates the MQ-9 combat mission, will become the 138th Attack Squadron.
Currently, three other Air Force squadrons which operate the MQ-9 have already been designated as attack squadrons. More importantly, the 174th Fighter Wing and 138th Fighter Squadron will retain their history and lineage after the new designation.
The Institute of Heraldry, which provides insignia to all branches of the military, is preparing a new unit emblem for the 174th to reflect the name change.
The 174th Fighter Wing was established in 1947 as the first Air Guard flying unit in New York. It currently flies the state-of-the-art MQ-9 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The newly designated 174th Attack Wing will continue its combat mission as well as its multiple training missions. This includes operating the Field Training Detachment, which trains all Air Force personnel on MQ-9 maintenance Procedures, and the Formal Training Unit, which provides initial qualification training to MQ-9 air crews.
—New York National Guard report
Never Forget: Ceremony Honors Base’s Namesake 61 Years Later More than 60 years after 1st Lt. Jerome Volk’s fighter jet went down over North Korea, the National Guard airbase that bears his name held a formal memorial ceremony for his family and friends.
“He was my stable friend,” said Don Volk, 85, Jerome’s younger brother, during the ceremony in July at Volk Field Air National Guard Base in central Wisconsin. “He meant a lot to me.”
Don Volk kept alive the hope that his brother’s remains would someday be recovered and returned. At that point, the Volk family hoped to hold a formal ceremony commemorating him at the base. After six decades, that day has yet to come.
Jerome Volk joined the U.S. Army’s enlisted reserve corps and began air cadet training in 1943. He flew P-51 Mustangs during World War II.
He joined the Wisconsin Air Guard’s 126th Fighter Squadron in January 1949 and was called to active duty with his squadron two years later and deployed to Korea.
His final flight—a strafing mission in his F-80 Shooting Star against communist Chinese forces in North Korea—began shortly after 3 p.m. on Nov. 7, 1951. After suffering damage to a napalm bomb, the F-80 spun out of control.
He was the first Wisconsin Air Guard pilot killed in the Korean War.
The Wisconsin Guard rededicated the part of Camp Williams used by the Air Guard as Volk Field in 1953.
Col. Gary Ebben, the Volk Field commander, said he was honored to host the ceremony.
“It’s certainly a personal event for them,” he said of the family. “It appears to have met a real need for them. It’s just a privilege and an honor to be a part of it.”
—By 1st Sgt. Vaughn R. Larson
Royal Visit: Jordanian Princess Attends State Partnership Event
The Colorado National Guard and Jordan Armed Forces continued their strong State Partnership Program and focus on women’s issues with a special event in the Centennial State in June.
Colorado and Jordan have held women’s events since 2009, with agendas focusing on topics such as officer and noncommissioned officer development, leadership and communication, deployment preparations and expectations and sexual assault prevention.
The June event attracted the attention of Her Royal Highness (Maj. Gen.) Princess Aisha bint Al Hussein, the defense, military, naval and air attaché from the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan Embassy in Washington, D.C.
Colorado National Guard women interacted with Aisha and a delegation of eight female Jordanian soldiers, including Brig. Gen. Nawal N’Soor, the current director of the Directorate of Military Women’s Affairs.
Aisha has established herself as a powerful voice for military women in Jordan. Her work has led to the expansion of duties for women in the Jordanian military.
A roundtable discussion on women’s issues included female leaders from the Colorado Guard and the local civilian community.
“It provided an excellent forum for all of us to share and discuss the challenges and opportunities facing women in the world today,” said Brig. Gen.
Dana Capozzella, the Colorado assistant adjutant general-Army. “Whether In the military, political or civilian sectors, or different countries, we found that the issues were the same.”
Aisha said the partnership between Colorado and Jordan is built on a simple concept.
“Our [partnership] success comes from trust first,” she said. “The hearts and minds follow once there is trust.”
—By Maj. Nicole David
Sappers Tutor Afghan Troops In Route-Clearance Techniques
Soldiers in the Afghan National Army have been working with the 288th Sapper Company to enhance security in Uruzgan province, Afghanistan, by training on route-clearance techniques and other advanced combat engineer skills.
“When we first got here we assessed [the ANA] and then began training them on the basics of engineering, like clearing minefields, doing route clearance [operations] and showing them what to look for and not to look for,” said Spc. Joseph Zachary Chesnut, a combat engineer with the unit.
Each day provides a new challenge and an opportunity to hone valuable skills. The Mississippi Army National Guardsmen and their ANA counterparts are often the go-to force when it comes to missions in their area.
Because they now partner with the ANA, which has explosive ordnance disposal technicians within its ranks, they have been called by the Afghan National Police to assist with roadside bombs, said 2nd Lt. Alex Armstrong, a platoon leader with the 288th.
But as the missions continued, the ANA began taking the lead.
“Our biggest role is to assist and watch them take care of it and mentor and correct as needed,” Armstrong said.
ANA soldiers are aware that the lives they are saving are often their own or those of their civilian countrymen.
“I appreciate learning from the 288th and am happy to be working with the Americans,” said ANA 1st Lt. Ismatullah, Route Clearance Company, 4th Brigade, 205th Corps.
“I have learned how to make sure the IED [improvised explosive device] has blown up and get rid of them easily.”
These skills will become critical to the ANA as coalition forces begin to withdraw from Afghanistan.
“The template for how they conduct a route-clearance mission and the skill sets of combat engineering will stay with the ANA after we leave,” said Chesnut.
“This will allow them the ability to think through a problem before they act.”
—By Spc. Nevada Jack Smith.
Read the full article at http://www.nationalguardmagazine.com/article/State+Roundup/1138447/121390/article.html.