National Guard June 2011 : Page 42
STATE ROUNDUP Twisters Floods & Fires Thousands of Guardsmen were out last month helping several states respond to Mother Nature at her worst HE NATIONAL GUARD has enhanced its public image over the past decade with a consistently superior performance in the war on terrorism, showing that cit-izen-soldiers and airmen are up to the challenge of combat, and even bring some unique skills to the ﬁght. But people in several states were re-minded last month of the force’s other mission as Guardsmen demonstrated that they have lost none of their abil-ity—or enthusiasm—to respond to di-sasters at home. “This is what being a citizen-sol-dier is all about,” said Spc. Thomas Mahfouz, a combat engineer with the Louisiana Army Guard’s 928th Sapper Company. “This is where I am from, and this mission gives me a chance to help save my hometown.” T Master Sgt. Toby M. Valadie Louisiana Army National Guardsmen build HESCO baskets to protect Krotz Springs, La., from ﬂood waters diverted from the rising Mississippi River. 42 | Na tional Guard
Twisters Floods & Fires
Thousands of Guardsmen were out last month helping several states respond to Mother Nature at her worst
THE NATIONAL GUARD has enhanced its public image over the past decade with a consistently superior performance in the war on terrorism, showing that citizen- soldiers and airmen are up to the challenge of combat, and even bring some unique skills to the fight.
But people in several states were reminded last month of the force's other mission as Guardsmen demonstrated that they have lost none of their ability–or enthusiasm–to respond to disasters at home.
"This is what being a citizen-soldier is all about," said Spc. Thomas Mahfouz, a combat engineer with the Louisiana Army Guard's 928th Sapper Company. "This is where I am from, and this mission gives me a chance to help save my hometown."
Mahfouz was in Morgan City, La., last month adding sand-filled HESCO baskets to the local levee in an attempt to keep the high water of the Mississippi River from flooding the town.
Similar efforts were being made across several states as swollen rivers in Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota and Tennessee, drought-fueled wildfires in Texas and killer tornadoes Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi prompted the callups of thousands of Guardsmen.
The largest response was in Alabama, where more than 50 twisters April 27 swept through the state's northern half, turning homes into rubble, making forests woodpiles and leaving 238 people dead.
At one point, 2,900 Alabama Guardsmen were on duty. They cleared roads, helped restore electricity, provided security to prevent looting, distributed food and other provisions, and did anything and everything else that was asked of them.
"We are working around the clock to make sure we support the governor and the Alabama Emergency Management Agency to assist the citizens of Alabama in the wake of these terrible storms," said Maj. Gen. Perry G. Smith, the Alabama adjutant general, two days after the tornado swarm.
Some of that work was on the frontlines, helping people dig through to salvage what they could from their destroyed homes.
Sps. Robert Boettner and Matthew Cole were part of a team from 31st Chemical Brigade that helped the Wooley family of Tuscaloosa on April 30.
"I dug through the wreckage, moved destroyed appliances and searched as far down as I could go," Cole said. "I wanted to help them find as much as I could."
Boettner found a child's bicycle out of the wreckage and took it to the family's collection of recovered belongings they had in stacks next to a tree.
The bike, some family photos and a few other mementos, were among the few possessions that could be salvaged. But Cole said recovering such items for the Wooleys was like finding treasure.
"You can replace a microwave or a stove, but you can't replace the memories that pictures capture," he said. "That's what I was looking for. Pictures they could hold on to."
Two weeks after the storms hit, the Alabama Guard still had 2,000 members on duty. The governor was appreciative.
"Our Alabama National Guard is working tirelessly to provide security and assist with transportation and distribution aid," Gov. Robert Bentley said in a speech to the legislature.
Floods were causing problems from the top of the nation's midsection to the bottom. The mighty Mississippi River was roaming outside its banks for hundreds of miles, causing several states to call out the Guard. Other rivers were flooding, too, as a result of heavy rains.
Levee patrols, sandbagging, traffic control and helping evacuate low lands were among the tasks handed to Guardsmen.
Of course, pulling people from danger was also on the agenda and Arkansas Guardsmen did that when they helped rescue Boy Scouts stranded by rising water early last month.
A helicopter and crew from A Company, 114th Aviation, found the Scouts in the Ouachita National Forest and brought them to safety.
"Getting in to them was tough," said Chief Warrant Officer David Specht, the helicopter pilot. "We had to snake down into a narrow area right along a stream and try to stay out of the water at the same time."
Two Missouri Guardsmen, Spc. Junior Bombard and Sgt. Tim Bridges, both of the 1138th Military Police Company, conducted a daring rescue of a 93-year-old woman trapped on the swollen Black River in early May.
"Today is the reason why I signed up for the Guard," Bombard said. "I knew one of these days I'd be needed like today and, sure enough, it happened."
Guardsmen don't limit their rescues to people. Elsewhere in Missouri, citizen-soldiers had a role in rescuing 64 cattle and three horses surrounded by flood waters in the southeast part of the state, where more than 750 Guardsmen were on duty at one time.
They spotted the stranded livestock on a video shot by the Civil Air Patrol and alerted the proper officials.
Missouri Guardsmen also responded to a tornado hit in late April that was especially close to force: An estimated $10 million or more in damage to Missouri Air Guard facilities at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport.
Up and down the heartland, Guardsmen were responding at a moment's notice, just like the minutemen of the force's past.
That impressed the Illinois adjutant general, who saw several hundred of his troops respond in early May as the floodwaters began to rise when the rains seemed never to stop.
"In addition to their military responsibilities, our soldiers and airmen are also committed to their career and families, so I am impressed with their rapid response to the governor's call," said Maj. Gen. William Enyart.
Elsewhere, more than 2 million acres had burned, along with hundreds of homes, as a result of wildfires in Texas, where rain has been rare and drought conditions were ripe for fires.
Air Guard C-130 Hercules from North Carolina, California and Wyoming responded to the fires, using the Modular Airborne Firefighting System to help stop the blazes. Meanwhile, Texas Army Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crews also dropped water on the flames.
–Compiled from National Guard releases
Good Timing: Soldiers Pause to Treat Hurt Child in Afghanistan
A security patrol from the Missouri National Guard Agribusiness Development Team (ADT) IV encountered a woman carrying an injured infant in the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan recently and took the time to provide medical aid.
In the process, the soldiers may have done more than help a badly burned boy.
"The story of how a military team stopped their mission and took the time to help a young mother and her baby will be passed from house to house and everyone will know the good thing they did for the young mother," said the patrol's translator after the incident.
The soldiers were on patrol when they saw the young mother running with her infant son. The child's legs and buttocks were bright red and blistered. The woman explained that she had spilled hot tea on him.
First Lt. Miciah Pyatt asked the patrol's medic, Spc. Thomas Lohmann, to look at the child.
The patrol then took the young boy to the office of the agriculture extension agent where the soldiers placed some clean towels on him and Lohmann went to work. He quickly discovered second-degree burns, which are serious and painful, but not life threatening.
"I knew there wasn't a lot I could do, but I wanted normal saline to wash and cool the area down as well as stopping the burn process," he said. "I couldn't do anything for the pain. I flushed it with normal saline, applied triple antibiotic on both legs and feet, where the skin was removed."
ADTs are composed of Guardsmen who work in the agricultural field as civilians. They deploy to Afghanistan to share their expertise with local farmers and to help revitalize the nation's agricultural industry.
–By Capt. Marie Orlando
Guard Training Site Enables Ailing Boy to Live His Dream
At the age of 13, Erick Morales can say he's commanded one of the most powerful rocket and missile launchers in the Army, led the charge against an invading hoard and helped ensure an Army National Guard training site was safe from fire and explosives.
And the kid hasn't even been to basic training.
Erick has muscular dystrophy, a disease that is crippling his body from his legs to his arms, and scoliosis, an ailment which causes curvature of the spine.
His mother, Maria Morales, sought the help of the Wyoming National Guard to help her son live his dream of becoming a soldier.
The Morales family was paired with the state's training site, the Camp Guernsey Joint Training Center, and the 2nd Battalion, 18th Field Artillery, an active-component unit based at Fort Sill, Okla., that training in Wyoming.
The Wyoming Guard obliged, naming Erick an honorary Wyoming Guardsman.
"It just gives them an opportunity to do something for a young person who would otherwise not have the opportunity to experience some of these things. It is really a feel good thing for all of the crew and it's a great opportunity for them," said Harold Walker, the base operations manager for Camp Guernsey.
Erick arrived at the Guernsey Army Airfield, from his home in Powell, Wyo., by a private plane flown by Pilots for Christ. He was greeted by soldiers and media and immediately received his first duty assignment: patrol with the Camp Guernsey Fire Department.
After a lap around the cantonment area (complete with lights and sirens), Erick was given the opportunity to command an M88 Recovery Vehicle–a tanksized tow truck–and an M270A1 Multiple Launch Rocket System launcher.
Erick also had a chance to "fire" some weapons. The camp's simulation center allowed Erick to engage computer targets, using military rifles and machine guns.
"The experience so far has been amazing, especially for Erick," said his mother Maria Morales, "because he's gotten to do things that normally nobody gets to do unless you're in the military."
–By 1st Lt. Christian Venhuizen
State's Army National Guard Wins Army Excellence Award
The West Virginia Army National Guard was selected as the best in the nation during the 2010 Army Chief of Staff Communities of Excellence (ACOE) competition.
The Mountaineer State scored highest among 33 states and territories that entered this year's contest.
The award recognizes performance excellence in business process improvement, individual and corporate innovation, and dedication to providing support to soldiers, families, civilian employees and retirees.
This is the second time in three years that the West Virginia Army Guard has won the competition. It was ineligible to compete last year, as organizations must wait a year after winning to compete again.
"I am so proud of the women and men that serve in the West Virginia National Guard," said Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, the West Virginia adjutant general. "It is so gratifying to have the hard work, dedication, professionalism and innovativeness I see displayed by our soldiers every day to be recognized by others as the best in the National Guard."
Hoyer received the award on behalf of the West Virginia National Guard during ceremonies April 19, at the 2011 ACOE ceremony in San Antonio, Texas.
West Virginia was noted for having a strong strategic planning process, communication that flowed well throughout all levels of the organization, and a customer-driven focus that sought to create value and promote personal learning and social responsibility.
Winning agencies are selected by an independent panel of six judges based on an evaluation of the agency's written application and site visits by examiner teams.
West Virginia will receive $400,000 for its victory. State officials indicate the funds will be used to finance programs that support soldiers and families.
–By West Virginia National Guard
Illinois, New York & Virginia
Air Guardsmen Support Final Space Shuttle Endeavour Flight
Air National Guardsmen from three states were on hand for the final launch of NASA's space shuttle Endeavour at Kennedy Space Center, Fla., May 16.
They provided front-line medical and emergency rescue support in the event of an incident.
Col. Joe Maslar, the chief of aerospace medicine for the Illinois Air National Guard's 183rd Fighter Wing, volunteered with Col. Frank Yang, the Virginia National Guard state air surgeon, as part of the emergency response team.
"Every time there is a launch, two pararescue jumpers and one flight doctor pre-position themselves between Cape Kennedy and the shuttle landing runway," Maslar said. "If there is some accident or the shuttle has to come back, we then respond on a helicopter and provide initial on-scene triage support."
The New York Air National Guard provided personnel from the Eastern Air Defense Sector to enforce a temporary no-fly zone established around the launch site.
Before the mission, Maslar and Yang completed a two-week course to familiarize them with performing emergency treatment on astronauts.
"We go to Patrick Air Force Base in Florida where we learn space physiology, medical considerations for people who have been in space for a long time, the hazardous material complications that come with the shuttle and we learn how to take someone out of a space suit during an emergency situation," Maslar said.
Maslar said he felt honored to have been a part of the mission.
"Space travel is the pinnacle of human achievement with the most complicated machine created by man, and even though we are just a small response package in the bigger schemes of things," he said, "it's a privilege to be part of the mission."
The flight marks the space shuttle Endeavor's 25th launch since 1992.
After the mission, it will be transported to Los Angeles, where it will become an exhibit at the California Science Center.
–By Tech. Sgt. John Orrell
Pilot in Iraq for Third Time, Sees a Nation Transforming
An Army National Guard aviator will soon have spent three of the past eight or so years in Iraq.
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Wayne Wade is on his third deployment there since the United States toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003, flying a different aircraft each time.
He was there when the war started. He's performed nearly every aviation mission since, including reconnaissance and cargo movement. And through it all, he's watched the transformation of a nation.
The pilot for the Mississippi Army National Guard's 1st Assault Helicopter Battalion, 185th Aviation, still vividly remembers his first tour, when he flew OH-58 Kiowa Warrior scout helicopters during the Iraq invasion. Things were more primitive then.
"There was almost no electricity in Iraq," he explained. "We would land next to a [fuel truck], fill up the bird and take off again. When we got tired, we would stop, sleep in the dirt, get up and do it again."
In 2006, on his second tour, he flew the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter with the Texas Army Guard's 36th Combat Aviation Brigade at the height of the Iraq surge.
"In '06 and '07, there were aircraft and people everywhere," he recalled. "There were so many aircraft in the air you had to be careful that you didn't run into each other."
Today, he's flying a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. He's reflective when asked the differences between now and the beginning of the conflict.
"Now it seems that there is really a much greater sense of normalcy throughout the entire country," he said. "The people in the country seem to be moving forward. Now it seems like the land is lush and there is farming, whereas before, when there was no electricity, all of the irrigation was gravity-fed, and there was a lot less farming going on."
–By Capt. R. L. "Ed" Edwards
Soldier Becomes U.S. Citizen While Serving in Afghanistan
Members of the provincial reconstruction team in Afghanistan's Ghazni Province welcomed their newest American citizen May 5 with a party dubbed "Cinco de Santos."
Spc. Rafael Santos, a member of 1st Battalion, 181st Infantry, had recently returned to his unit from Kandahar, Afghanistan, where he took his citizenship examination and then his oath of citizenship along with about 75 other new citizens.
A native of Brazil, Santos moved to the United States 10 years ago with his parents.
Normally, a naturalization applicant must be a lawful permanent resident in the United States for five years immediately preceding their application, but that time is reduced to one year for members of the U.S. military.
And for service members serving during a time of declared hostilities, there is no such requirement.
They simply must have served honorably in an active-duty status for any period of time; however, should they be discharged under other than honorable conditions, their citizenship may be revoked.
Military members still are required to take an exam demonstrating knowledge of U.S. government and history and pass an interview with an Immigration and Naturalization Service agent.
"I was a little nervous, because I didn't know what to expect, but the people in Kandahar were really nice," Santos said. "The test was pretty easy; I knew most of it already from college. I'm happy, and now I'm out here serving my country."
The Massachusetts Army National Guard soldier, who is studying business administration and accounting, was three years into his college career when he was called upon to serve on this deployment.
–By Chief Master Sgt. Julie Brummund
Lakota Nation Helps Welcome New Aircraft Bearing its Name
Members of the Lakota Nation joined soldiers May 15 in Crazy Horse, S.D., to welcome the first UH-72A Lakota helicopter to the South Dakota Army Guard.
The light utility helicopter, named for the legendary tribe that inhabits areas across the state, was only part of the day's activities. An afternoon of singing, dancing and other traditional Lakota activities helped promote unity between the two communities.
Like other Army helicopters, the Lakota is named for one of the many American Indian tribes. The Lakota, who are a branch of the Sioux tribe, migrated to South Dakota more than 200 years ago.
"It's an honor for the National Guard to give the Lakota name to the helicopter," said Orlando B. Morrison Sr., a veterans service officer and the director of veterans programs for the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. "This will bring the tribes, the National Guard and the people of South Dakota closer together."
The helicopter and its crew received a Native American blessing, a commemorative blast was detonated on Crazy Horse Memorial.
"I am proud that we have the National Guard doing something like this," said Master Sgt. Kelly L. Moore, a senior maintenance sergeant with the state joint-force headquarters aviation section. "This event has brought both the National Guard and the Lakota Nation together to help promote unity."
–By Sgt. Laura Fuerst
Clear Channels: Communicators Get Ready for Hurricane Season
The Florida National Guard is making sure first responders–both civilian and military–will be able to communicate if a major storm hits the Sunshine State this hurricane season.
More than 70 Florida Guard soldiers and airmen learned to operate specialized communications systems known as Regional Emergency Response Networks (RERNs) training at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center, Fla., last month.
Deployable by ground or air, the self-contained systems enable the Florida Guard to quickly meet all the communications needs of an incident commander, whether it is satellite, wireless, voice, video teleconferencing, TV, data or interoperable radio connectivity.
"This is a fantastic opportunity for us to prepare for the upcoming hurricane season," said Col. Dan Nievinski, the Florida Guard J6 and director of information management. "We do this every year in May and try to involve our interagency partners every chance we get."
Before graduating "RERN University," the new operators were required to set up the systems as part of a scenario that could easily become reality: a major hurricane slams through South Florida and the Guard has just a few hours to establish communications.
"I think this is preparing us for what could happen when we get to an actual incident site," said Spc. Jessica Rieve. The Florida Guard has 17 RERN systems staged at locations throughout Florida.
"This is a solution that will be able to cross-band radios, telephones, military and other land mobile radios like the 800 megahertz law-enforcement radios," Nievinski explained. "Everyone can talk on the same network and be able to seamlessly communicate between state, local and federal agencies."
The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 until November 30. Forecasters at Colorado State University predict 16 named storms in the Atlantic basin this year, with at least five becoming major hurricanes.
–By Master Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa
Read the full article at http://www.nationalguardmagazine.com/article/State+Roundup/755088/72536/article.html.