National Guard July 2011 : Page 38
STATE ROUNDUP The Big ONE Tens of thousands of Guardsmen take part in an exercise designed to test the ability of agencies across government to respond to a major earthquake in the U.S. midsection BOUT 40,000 NATIONAL Guardsmen participated in National Level Exercise 11 (NLE 11) in late May, the largest inter-agency exercise in history. The exercise, with a scenario of a major earthquake in the New Madrid Seismic Zone, tested the response ca-pabilities of the Guard in several states. Officials say an earthquake along the 150-mile New Madrid Fault Line, which stretches from Southern Illinois into Arkansas, potentially threatens much of the middle of the country. The fault system is responsible for four of the largest North American earthquakes in recorded history. The last big tremor occurred in 1968. It was a 5.4-magnitude quake centered in Dale, Ill., and was reportedly felt in 23 states. NLE 11 was actually an amalgam of several exercises, including the Joint Chiefs of Staff Positive Response 2011, U.S. Northern Command’s Ardent Sen-try 2011, the Department of Health A 38 | Na tional Guard
The Big ONE
Tens of thousands of Guardsmen take part in an exercise designed to test the ability of agencies across government to respond to a major earthquake in the U.S. midsection
ABOUT 40,000 NATIONAL Guardsmen participated in National Level Exercise 11 (NLE 11) in late May, the largest interagency exercise in history.
The exercise, with a scenario of a major earthquake in the New Madrid Seismic Zone, tested the response capabilities of the Guard in several states.
Officials say an earthquake along the 150-mile New Madrid Fault Line, which stretches from Southern Illinois into Arkansas, potentially threatens much of the middle of the country.
The fault system is responsible for four of the largest North American earthquakes in recorded history. The last big tremor occurred in 1968. It was a 5.4-magnitude quake centered in Dale, Ill., and was reportedly felt in 23 states.
NLE 11 was actually an amalgam of several exercises, including the Joint Chiefs of Staff Positive Response 2011, U.S. Northern Command's Ardent Sentry 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services' Noble Life Saver 2011, U.S. Transportation Command's Turbo Challenge 2011/Ultimate Caduceus 2011 and the Guard's annual Vigilant Guard.
Guard organizations spent much of the event testing their emergency response plans to find weaknesses, said Maj. Gen. David Harris, the National Guard Bureau's director of domestic operations and force development.
Harris said issues brought to light by exercises like NLE 11, such as organization and staffing, can be solved quickly, but others, such as communication packages and hardware issues, require more planning and budgeting to fix.
"That's why exercises like this are important," he said, "to show those potential shortfalls."
Alabama Guardsmen provided aerial support for infrastructure assessments, basic first aid and medical triage, and security in several counties.
Like many states, Alabama Guard officials activated their chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosives (CBRNE) enhanced-response force package, also known as a CERFP, for search-and-rescue and mass casualty support.
The Arkansas Guard had engineers provide damage assessment and repair damaged airport runways.
They also filled approximately 50,000 sand bags for potential flooding, provided enough shelters for about 4,500 displaced citizens and delivered cots, blankets and relief goods.
In Illinois, Guardsmen assisted local law enforcement with public safety and welfare checks in rural areas. They also had several civil support teams respond to a simulated biohazard emergency where about 15,000 gallons of soybean oil leaked into the Ohio River.
Indiana made the NLE 11 an opportunity to practice with its 53rd CST and worked with first responders from various Indiana Department of Homeland Security districts on emergency response procedures.
Kentucky took the opportunity to bring past experiences to the table for the purpose of updating and rewriting its Commonwealth Earthquake Response plan.
"We learn something with each event or disaster, such as the historic flooding Kentucky just experienced," said John Heltzel, the director for Kentucky Emergency Management. "The trick is to take lessons learned and turn them into lessons applied."
The Kentucky Joint Air Operations Center also worked to prioritize and allocate air assets for missions across the commonwealth.
They transported personnel and equipment, and provided aeromedical evacuation and search-and-rescue capabilities when needed, said Brig. Gen. Mark Kraus, who commands the JAOC and is Kentucky's joint forces air component commander.
Missouri Guardsmen provided CBRNE agent monitoring, mitigation and decontamination, emergency medical services and extraction at collapsed structures.
"The Missouri National Guard is a key component of disaster response," said John Campbell of the state's Emergency Management Agency.
"The Guard brings capabilities that don't exist in everyday situations," he said. "They bring disciplined citizen-soldiers and airmen to check the wellbeing of folks who are suffering from the effects of a disaster or to provide warnings."
The Mississippi Guard's 4th CST worked with Florida, Georgia and Texas CERFPs providing search-and-extraction and mass casualty support in a simulated hazardous environment.
Tennessee had Guardsmen establishing communication lines at the county level, providing security and shelters for citizens, and providing aviation support for damage assessments.
The Wisconsin Guard's 54th CST supported local and state authorities at domestic emergency incident sites. They worked to identify substances and assess projected consequences.
"The CST provided safety of the scene, data modeling, communications and liaison between the incident commander and public health authorities," said Lt. Col. Timothy Covington, the team commander. "This was a great opportunity to introduce our capabilities to local agencies and to show how those resources might be used in the event of a large-scale disaster."
NLE 11 also allowed Guardsmen and Northern Command to practice their developed contingency dual-status command initiative.
During a domestic disaster, the initiative allows an active-component or Guard officer to command and control state and federal military assets in a defense support of civil authorities environment, NORTHCOM officials said.
With the completion of NLE 11, relationships were solidified with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Transportation Security Administration and several more federal and state agencies.
Such relationships will allow the Guard to determine areas of responsibility throughout the individual states in the event of a real-world catastrophic event, Guard officials said.
–By Tech. Sgt. John Orrell
Troops Began Aiding Joplin Right After Historic Tornado
Minutes after one of the most devastating tornadoes in U.S. history ripped through Joplin, Mo., Missouri National Guardsmen were already performing relief efforts.
More than 150 people died in the tornado, which literally whipped much of the southwestern Missouri city off the map May 22. Many Guardsmen from the area, including Spc. Jeffrey Price, were busy with their everyday lives when the disaster struck.
Price, a heavy equipment operator for the 294th Engineer Company in nearby Carthage, was at his job at Walmart in Joplin.
In the moments before the twister struck, Price said store employees and more than 100 customers were told to gather in the rear of the store.
As the tornado ripped through the city of 50,000, Price said portions of the store, including the roof, some walls and fixtures, were sucked away.
"It was like a pop can crinkling, it's the only way I can describe it," he said. "The beams that go across the roof actually started bouncing off the concrete. The next thing I know, the roof is gone, and we're lying there in a pile of rubble.
The store was completely destroyed. Price, however, didn't stop working. He and a co-worker found a way to crawl out of the damaged structure and immediately began freeing trapped customers.
"We just jumped right up after it happened and started looking for a way out," Price said.
Two hours after the tornado hit, he was called up for emergency duty by the 294th, one of several Missouri Guard units mobilized to assist Joplin.
Search and rescue, route clearance, communications, traffic control and security were among the services provided by the Guard.
But emergency response was only the first phase of the Guard mission in Joplin. On May 30, Gov. Jay Nixon put the Missouri Guard in charge of supervising the cleanup and removal of the millions of cubic yards of debris that remained in the city.
–By Sgt. Jon E. Dougherty
Flood Fight: Guard Continues Response to Midwest Floods
More than 4,000 National Guardsmen from several states continued operations last month in support of the 2011 Midwest floods, which have ravaged thousands of acres and potentially caused billions of dollars in damage.
The largest numbers of Guardsmen on duty were in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. Some have been on duty for about three months, helping local authorities protect citizens from the devastation of multiple rising rivers.
In Iowa, where the Missouri River has caused the shutdown of much of Interstate 29 in the western part of the state, the Guard has been evacuating citizens and patrolling levees in multiple counties.
Kansas Guardsmen patrolled affected levees, monitoring them for potential weakness from the pressure of the rising Missouri River.
With seven counties heavily affected by the floods, Missouri National Guardsmen placed sandbags and moved nonessential equipment to Forbes Field in Topeka, Kan, in preparation for a potential relocation of Rosecrans Air National Guard Base.
Nebraska Guardsmen provided levee monitoring for the city of Omaha and prepared generators in the event they were needed for critical areas.
In South Dakota, Guardsmen provided air assets for sandbagging efforts and the transportation of personnel.
The Wyoming National Guard activated its emergency operations center while performing flood mitigation in several counties.
Hardest hit may be North Dakota. Guardsmen there were still running 24-hour operations. They provided quick response forces and ground search-and-rescue teams to multiple counties throughout the state.
Guardsmen also helped evacuate Minot, N.D., in response to the Souris River topping several levees.
Minot city ordered the evacuation as it braced for flood levels to exceed the record levels of 1881.
–By Tech. Sgt. John Orrell
Sherpas Continue to Move 'Things and People' in Iraq
An aging, small, light cargo aircraft the Army no longer wants continues to make big contributions to the U.S. military in Iraq.
Members of A Company, 641st Aviation, have flown their C-23 Sherpas more than 5,000 hours since arriving in October, transporting more than 2.2 million pounds of equipment and cargo and 10,000 people.
The Sherpa, which the Army plans to retire from the Army fleet in 2015, is a low-flying aircraft used to ferry supplies to troops in remote locations that lack the long, developed air strips required by large cargo planes.
It can carry 18 troops and up to four tons of cargo.
"We supply what is called the 'last tactical mile.' The Air Force gets stuff into the country and we get it out to all the smaller bases in country," said Capt. Adam McCarthy, the company commander. "We are extremely proficient in getting things and people around the country. We're like the FedEx of Iraq."
Since the Sherpa program's arrival in Iraq, it has left an identifiable mark on operations.
"The service that we provide here has definitely made an impact on this whole war. . . . Sherpas have been flying in this war for eight years now, and I think that the whole program has proven itself over and over again," said 1st Sgt. Scott McCoy.
The Sherpa program has gone through several modifications in order to be effective in Iraq. The aircraft only flies at night in Iraq and pilots wear night-vision goggles.
And as the U.S. mission winds down in Iraq (story, page 28), there are fewer and fewer aircraft to move people and materials around country. This makes the Sherpas even more valuable.
"Even though we are drawing down here, stuff and people still need to be moved all the time," said Maj. Tom Stackpole, the night operations officer for the Army Reserve's 2nd Battalion, 228th Aviation, in Iraq.
"They can carry more than a Black Hawk, but less than a Chinook," he said. "But the benefit is that they can go for longer distances, faster."
–Spc. Darriel Swatts
20 Years Later: Air Guard Pilot Recalls Time as Gulf War POW
Col. Mike Roberts recently attended a unique reunion.
The commander of the 178th Fighter Wing joined about a dozen other men who, like him, had been taken prisoner by the Iraqis during Operation Desert Storm 20 years ago.
"It was only six weeks, such a short period of time," he said after returning to Ohio from the gathering in Florida. "Comparing that to what guys went through in Vietnam that went before me . . . I mean, how much can you be changed in six weeks?"
Still, his experience was harrowing and frightful. Flying an F-16 with the 614th Tactical Squadron from Torrejon Air Base, Spain, when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in August 1990, he deployed to Qatar and began flying combat missions.
When his plane was hit with a surface- to-air missile over Baghdad on Jan 19, 1991, Roberts managed to eject and land safely near a highway, where he was quickly swarmed by a mob of angry civilians. Roberts said he was grateful when Iraqi military members arrived to take him into custody.
"[T]he civilians were getting a little rowdy and I don't know what they were planning, but it wasn't anything good, I don't think," he recalled.
For the next few days, Roberts was interrogated. He was beaten when he didn't answer to his captors' satisfaction.
At one point, he was asked to make a propaganda video, but he refused. The beatings continued and one soldier told others to cut off Roberts' leg. After more beatings, he agreed to the video.
The video had an unintended benefit for Roberts. His pregnant wife, whose husband was listed as "duty status and whereabouts unknown," was in the hospital in Spain when she saw the video of her husband on CNN, the first evidence that he was alive since he'd gone missing three days earlier.
Joined with a number of other American prisoners, Roberts was eventually held in the Ba'ath Party intelligence headquarters, where they were held in solitary confinement.
"That was not a good place," he says.
The building was a target of U.S. bombs on Feb. 23. No prisoners were injured, but much of the building, including some cells, was destroyed.
When the ground war started, the prisoners were moved frequently. One day, a guard told him he'd be going home soon.
"I'm thinking, 'Yeah, right, whatever. Just another line of B.S. that some guy's feeding me,'" he said.
But the American fliers were soon released. Given new prison uniforms, they were taken to a hotel in downtown Baghdad and turned over to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Roberts has been with the Air Guard and the Ohio Air National Guard's 178th for 15 years. He has been wing commander since January 2008.
The wing used to train pilots from across the Air Force and around the world on how to fly the F-16. It now flies MQ-1 Predators.
–1st Lt. Kimberly D. Snow
Good Hookup: Aviators Rescue Boat From Brink of Niagara Falls
Staff Sgt. James Lentz planned to spend Father's Day morning sleeping in before spending the day with his wife and four young kids.
Instead, he spent that morning hanging upside down from a CH-47 Chinook helicopter hovering over the raging Niagara River, just upstream from Niagara Falls, while he tried to get a hook on a stuck motorboat.
Lentz's Father's Day flight got its genesis more than 24 hours earlier when four teenagers went boating in the Niagara River. Their motor failed and they were swept downstream towards Horseshoe Falls (the name of the Canadian side of Niagara Falls) where the boat grounded.
New York State Park Police were able to rescue the teens. However, after retrieving the teens' vessel, a Park Police boat ran aground, too. A Canadian helicopter airlifted the two-man crew, but the boat was stuck just above the falls.
New York State Office of Parks and Recreation officials worried that the boat would be swept over the falls, damaging the natural wonder and interfering with navigation.
A private salvage company wanted more than $100,000 to retrieve the steel-hulled motor boat, so state officials turned to the New York Army National Guard.
The job had to be done early when flow over the falls is reduced due to the overnight diversion of water into hydroelectric reservoirs and canals.
So at 4:30 a.m. on Father's Day, Lentz and five members of Company B, 3rd Battalion, 126th Aviation–Capt. Eric Fritz, 1st. Lt. Benjamin Postle, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Thomas Zimmerman, Sgt. 1st Class John Bobeck and Staff Sgt. Stanley Bagrowski–were at the New York Army Guard's Rochester flight facility.
The team arrived at Goat Island, the New York State Park that straddles Niagara Falls, just before 7 a.m. and, after dropping off Postle to watch the maneuver from the ground, went into action.
Fritz and Zimmerman flew the helicopter to just above the stuck boat and then went into a hover.
That was more challenging than usual because the water rushing below him at 25 mph made it look like the helicopter was constantly moving, Fritz said.
Meanwhile, Lentz, strapped into a body harness with Bagrowski hanging onto him to make sure he didn't get tangled up, was hanging halfway out of the hatch in the floor of the Chinook's troop cabin, trying to get a sling hook onto the small hook at the rear of the stuck boat.
Lentz hung there, getting wetter and wetter, and talking to Fritz at the controls over the intercom, telling him how to maneuver the 23,400-pound helicopter so he could make the hook-up.
"I was soaked from my head to my waist," Lentz said.
After about 45 minutes of failing to hook onto the stern of the boat, Fritz went for the larger bow hook.
"The forward sling point was a little bit bigger target and it was a lot higher off the water," Lentz said.
He got the hook on the boat, went back inside, and Fritz and Zimmerman at the controls started lifting.
Fritz had been afraid that the boat, which was filled with water, would be heavy and hard to lift, he said. But the water ran out until the boat weighed only about 8,000 pounds, much less than the 26,000 pounds the Chinook is designed to lift.
The next trick was to fly forward just enough so that the stuck boat's anchor pulled out easily, Fitz said.
They got the boat onshore, dropped it, landed, picked up Postel and headed home to enjoy the rest of their Father's Day.
–By Eric Durr
Soldier Takes Bullet to Helmet, Walks Away Totally Unscathed
Perhaps it was a little bit of luck or maybe it was just good equipment, but Spc. Tom Albers was able to walk away from a bullet that hit his helmet during a firefight in eastern Afghanistan May 28.
Albers, a member of 1st Squadron, 113th Cavalry, was part of a patrol that day in Parwan province with Afghan National Police searching for insurgents on a hillside.
Just as he crested the hill, the Iowa Army National Guard soldier and his team came under fire. Moments later, he felt something hit his head.
"I felt something hit me in the side of the helmet and was knocked to the ground," he said. "It felt like someone had hit me in the head with a wooden baseball bat."
Albers was momentarily stunned, but after checking himself and realizing he was still alive, he regained his bearings and took up a position to return fire.
"I laid there for what seemed like five minutes, but realized later that it was just a couple of seconds. I thought to myself, 'Am I dying? No, I don't really think so,'" Albers said.
Medics evacuated Albers, and after hospital staff gave him a battery of tests, they found him to be perfectly healthy, except for a small burn mark across the top of his head.
After the incident, Albers called his mother, who told him that he must have been wearing his helmet correctly to deflect the shot.
The helmet, which will be sent to his house after military officials examine it, will serve as a good training tool to teach his soldiers the importance of proper wear of their protective equipment or, at the very least, to keep their heads down.
–Spc. James Wilson
Soldier Becomes Army's First Female Avenger Master Gunner
When Staff Sgt. Jessica Ray joined 3rd Battalion, 265th Air Defense Artillery, she followed closely the first females to come into the 14S, or Avenger crew member, military occupational Specialty (MOS).
Now, four years later, Ray can claim a first of her own. She recently became the first female to graduate from the Avenger Master Gunner Course.
"It's a great accomplishment in my career," said Ray, who works full time for the Florida Army National Guard in Sarasota, Fla. "I'm proud to be called a master gunner and to be able to take that knowledge to my soldiers."
The Avenger Master Gunner Course trains noncommissioned officers to function as a unit's gunnery master and the commander's gunnery technical advisor.
During the six-week course, Avenger crew members gain detailed technical knowledge of the weapons system and learn how to plan and execute effective training.
Ray's battalion conducted its annual training at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center, Fla., last month. Master gunners are crucial to the success of the unit's training and range qualification.
The Avenger system operates with a crew of three–not that it takes three soldiers to operate the weapon, but because the final decision to engage a target requires the expertise of an experienced and highly trained NCO.
"It's critical that we have that experienced NCO corps," said Maj. Chris Dillon, the battalion operations officer. "That person will be the last person to give the order to engage."
The Florida Guard has led the way in the Avenger MOS–sending the first females through the course, the first Guardsmen through the Master Gunner Course and now the first female through the Master Gunner Course.
The battalion currently has more qualified master gunners than any other unit in the Army.
–Sgt. 1st Class Blair Heusdens
Read the full article at http://www.nationalguardmagazine.com/article/State+Roundup/772626/74054/article.html.