National Guard October 2011 : Page 48
STATE ROUNDUP The Other Kind of Fireﬁght Guardsmen wage air and ground battle against stubborn fires from Louisiana to the Pacific Northwest 48 IRES IN THE southern and western parts of the country have destroyed thousands of acres and required Guard expertise and equipment from several states. Hot, dry conditions have turned wide regions into kindling for wild-ﬁres. This was no more evident last month than in southeastern Texas, south of the state capital of Austin, where one runaway blaze—the Bas-trop ﬁre—charred more than 34,000 acres, destroyed 1,500-plus homes and killed two people. Statewide, more than 1,900 ﬁres have burned nearly 3.5 million acres this year, according to the Texas Forest Service. The Texas National Guard took to the skies to help contain the Bastrop ﬁre. Eight UH-60 Black Hawk helicop-ters and three CH-47 Chinook heli-F | Na tional Guard
The Other F Kind of Firefight
Guardsmen wage air and ground battle against stubborn fires from Louisiana to the Pacific Northwest
FIRES IN THE southern and western parts of the country have destroyed thousands of acres and required Guard expertise and equipment from several states.
Hot, dry conditions have turned wide regions into kindling for wildfires. This was no more evident last month than in southeastern Texas, south of the state capital of Austin, where one runaway blaze–the Bastrop fire–charred more than 34,000 acres, destroyed 1,500-plus homes and killed two people.
Statewide, more than 1,900 fires have burned nearly 3.5 million acres this year, according to the Texas Forest Service.
The Texas National Guard took to the skies to help contain the Bastrop fire. Eight UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and three CH-47 Chinook helicopters dumped 1.5 million gallons on the blaze between Aug. 31 and Sept. 7.
Black Hawks equipped with suspended Bambi Buckets can drop about 660 gallons of water or fire retardant per pass while the larger, more-powerful Chinooks are able to release about 1,600 gallons at a time.
The Texas Army Guard also provided additional personnel, 12 bulldozers and a few dozen other large support trucks to areas affected by the fires last month.
Texas also received Guard help from beyond its borders. U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) dispatched two specially equipped C-130s each from the North Carolina Air Guard's 146th Airlift Wing and the Air Force Reserve's 302nd Airlift Wing in Colorado to Austin to help local authorities.
The aircraft were equipped with the U.S. Forest Service's Modular Airborne Firefighting System which can discharge 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant in less than five seconds over an area one-quarter-of-a-mile long by 60-feet wide.
NORTHCOM also sent two MAFFS-equipped C-130s from the Wyoming Air Guard's 153rd Airlift Wing and to Boise, Idaho, to fight fires in Idaho, Nevada, Utah and elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest.
"This has been a very active fire season. We exceeded our annual average of fire missions two months ago and this is now becoming one of the most active fire seasons we have faced," said Lt. Col. David Condit, the deputy commander of the 302nd Air Expeditionary Group.
The group is comprised of personnel from the three deployed wings and the California Air Guard's 146th Airlift Wing when they are involved in firefighting missions.
The four are the only units in the Air Force trained to use MAFFS, which are actually owned by the forest service, one of several federal and state agencies and organizations that make up the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise.
Meanwhile, marsh fires near New Orleans and a wildfire in northeast Minnesota were targets of additional Army Guard aerial firefighting efforts.
A group of Louisiana Guard Black Hawks had dropped more than 1 million gallons of water on the marsh fires–inaccessible to local fire department equipment–by the middle of last month.
The mission began Aug. 30, six days after firefighters say a lightning strike ignited dry vegetation in the marsh. It was suspended Sept. 1 as Tropical Storm Lee began to impact the region. But after more than 10 inches of rain failed to fully extinguish the fires, city and state officials asked for the Black Hawks to return.
According to the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, the primary fire was never a threat to spread because the 1,552-acre area involved is completely surrounded by water.
However, the fires created a thick smoky haze blanketing much of the region in the days before Lee arrived, leading state environmental and health officials to issue air-quality warnings.
In Minnesota, four Black Hawks helped battle a 100,000-acre wildfire near Ely, Minn.
At the direction of Gov. Mark Dayton, the helicopters, along with Minnesota Army and Air Guard aviation support teams, began assisting ongoing firefighting efforts Sept. 13.
According to the federal forest service officials, the fire has been burning since Aug. 18 in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
The fire burned a relatively small area during the first few weeks before high winds and low humidity spread it over 80,000 acres in a single day.
Smoke plumes from the massive fire traveled as far as Chicago, nearly 500 miles away.
The four Black Hawk helicopters dropped more than 400,000 gallons of water on the blaze before returning home Sept. 21.
"Our crew members are training every year with other agencies around the state, including the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, for this type of mission," said Capt. Jon Andrews, officer-in-charge of the helicopter detachment.
–Compiled from Guard releases
New Wings: First C-27J Spartan Arrival Begins Transformation
The 135th Airlift Group celebrated the arrival of its first C-27J Spartan on Aug. 13, marking the beginning of its transformation from the C-130J Hercules, which it had flown since 1999.
"For the Air National Guard, it's a great airplane. It fits the domestic niche where larger airplanes would be inefficient," said Lt. Gen. Harry M. Wyatt III, the director of the Air National Guard.
Group members were excited for the future of their wing and the potential uses of their new airframe.
"It's a new chapter in the 135th," said Senior Airman J. B. Jennings, a loadmaster. "It's going to serve its purpose well. It is a new aircraft serving a new mission. Here in Maryland our domestic mission [covers a wide ranging geography.] We have the eastern shore, the mountains. Whether we need to get supplies in or evacuate people, this airplane gets into pretty much any runway in the state."
The Maryland Air Guard unit lost its C-130Js due to the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure ruling. The remaining C-130Js left in August. The 135th will eventually have four C-27Js.
The C-27J has already proven itself in combat, flying its first mission in Afghanistan on Aug. 4 with the Ohio Air Guard's 179th Airlift Wing.
"The airplane has amazing capabilities," said Capt. Chris Meyer, a C-27J pilot and project officer for the ceremony. "I am looking forward to employing them wherever we are needed."
–By Tech. Sgt. David Speicher
Guardsman Quickly Responds During State Fair Emergency
A medic with the 53rd Civil Support Team was in a place to use his skills when the concert stage collapsed in a 60 mph wind at the Indiana State Fair in Indianapolis Aug. 13, killing five people and injuring another 40.
Master Sgt. James Stranahan was in the third row when the stage collapsed. After he watched the stage fall onto roughly 50 people who were still in the sand pit at the front of the stage, he jumped over the guard rail and took action.
The Indiana Air National Guardsman triaged, treated and helped evacuate more than a dozen injured in the tragedy. Having responded to mass casualty situations before on deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, he said this hit very close to home.
"In the military, there's always that potential," Stranahan said. "But, an accident of this magnitude, it's tough. I'm an older guy, I feel like I can handle it. I feel bad for those kids that have to live with this memory for the rest of their lives."
He has more than 29 years experience in the military including more than 20 years in the Indiana Army and Air Guard.
–By Sgt. John Crosby
ADT's Visit to Demo Farm Yields Productive Ideas
Members of the 1-14th Agribusiness Development Team (ADT) arrived in country with a wealth of farming knowledge, but to learn a little more of what works best in Afghanistan, they recently visited a U.S. Agency for International Development demonstration farm in Kunar province.
The farm is part of a USAID project known as Incentives Driving Economic Alternatives-North, East, West. It is intended to provide Afghan farmers with licit agricultural alternatives to opium poppy production.
The Illinois Guard ADT went to the farm to evaluate management and operational techniques that could benefit its own demonstration farms, which are also designed to benefit the agricultural economy of Kunar province.
Spc. Alan McFalls, a forestry expert, said the team was looking for specific, repeatable practices.
"During our visit to the demo farm, we were looking for different planting and field preparation techniques," McFalls said. "We also wanted to obtain information about the productivity of their fields, pest problems, seed sources, chemicals used and the different crops that they were successful in producing."
Kyle Scott, a USAID representative, said farmers are able to utilize the USAID property through one-year contracts.
Scott said farmers are required to pay 60 percent of the initial seed and fertilizer cost, but are allowed to keep 100 percent of the profits from their crops.
Capt. Larry Fuller, an engineer with the Illinois team, said his team learned from the visit and said missions like this are valuable for everyone involved.
"There are enough government and private organizations working agricultural issues in Kunar that many of the problems we're researching are already being resolved," he said.
–Illinois National Guard release
Going Viral: Sidewinder Band Gains Instant Fame on YouTube
An element of the 571st Air Force Band is gaining worldwide fame after a video of one of their performances in Southwest Asia went viral.
Sidewinder, a 10-member, Missouri Air National Guard band, was on a 45- day deployment performing throughout the Middle East when one of its performances, an acoustic version of a popular song, "Rolling in the Deep" by Adele, was posted to YouTube and the number of hits grew quickly.
"The YouTube clip has gone crazy," said Master Sgt. Brian House, a trumpet player for the 571st. "It's virtually across the globe. I found out that a television show in Hawaii used the video and it's been shown on TV in the United Kingdom and New Zealand."
In just a few days, the video had been viewed more than 850,000 times.
Carson Daly, producer of the hit NBC show The Voice, was so impressed with the singing of Staff Sgt. Angie Johnson that he contacted her via Twitter and invited her to audition for the show after she returns home.
Despite their newfound fame, Side- winder members deflect the accolades to their audience and the country they serve. "It is our privilege to come over here and play for the troops," said Staff Sgt. Brian Owens. "We're playing for our brothers and sisters in arms, the real rock stars and heroes of our country and the best audiences on the planet."
Popularity of the video has also led to an interview with Fox News and invitations to perform on-air from ABC's Good Morning America and Warner Brothers' The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
–By Bill Phelan
Botswanan, Guard Lawyers Conduct Mock Court-Martial
Legal experts from the North Carolina National Guard and Botswana Defence Force held their first joint mock courts-martial as part of a trial advocacy workshop in Gaborone, Botswana, in August.
The event, coordinated through the National Guard State Partnership Program and U.S. Africa Command, allowed American and Botswanan military members to share legal concepts and frameworks within military justice, to understand different approaches and procedures in trial tactics, and to advance the relationship between the U.S. military and the BDF. "[I'm] impressed with [the BDF's] advanced justice system and their enthusiasm to learn ours," said Maj. Alex Mendaloff III, the North Carolina National Guard Trial Defense Services chief.
The BDF Act, the law that applies to the Botswana military, and the Botswana civilian legal systems have several key differences from the U.S. justice system. For one, Botswana does not permit plea bargaining, does not offer court-appointed attorneys, except in capital cases, and doesn't have a Trial Defense Service, a familiar concept with the U.S. Army.
The two groups spent a full day learning about each military's legal system and then participated in a mock court-martial from opening statements to jury verdict.
"I learned a lot from the direct and cross examination from both the defense and the prosecution and how [our U.S. counterparts] were in control the whole time," said Maj. Ronald Kgomela, a staff judge advocate with the BDF.
–By Capt. Adam Blocker
Florida, Virgin Islands
Gang Violence in Caribbean Topic of Police, Guard Seminar
Florida and U.S. Virgin Islands National Guardsmen exchanged information on youth and gang violence with local defense and police officials during a special seminar in Bridgetown, Barbados, Aug. 30 and 31.
"This is truly nontraditional military engagement in this region that was asked for specifically by each of the chiefs of defense and commissioners of police that I deal with," said Coast Guard Cmdr. Ted Gangsei, the military liaison officer for the U.S. embassy of Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean. "This is value back from the defense forces, back into the community."
Across the region, economic challenges have put many community programs that help at-risk youth in danger. Often, offending juveniles are put directly into the general population of the prisons with no chance for the support or educational assistance.
"Gang violence can, in turn, have a significant impact on the economy, especially in a region that relies heavily on tourism," said 1st Lt. Paul O'Leary, a company commander with the Florida Army Guard's 1st Battalion, 124th Infantry, and a 15-year veteran of the police force in Hialeah, Fla.
The exchange also included members of the Barbados Defense Force, the Royal Barbados Police Force and the Regional Security System.
The group discussed several factors that influence youth to join gangs and ways to prevent gangs from proliferating throughout the Caribbean.
–By Sgt. 1st Class Blair Heusdens
Guardsmen Help Snuff Out Pot Farms in 'Emerald Triangle'
Northern California's "Emerald Triangle" has been known for decades for the cultivation of high-grade marijuana by illegal growers.
Grow sites are often dangerous as growers arm themselves to protect their valuable crops.
But with the help of the California National Guard, Operation Full Court Press helped eradicate some of the problem over the summer.
Guardsmen supported Full Court Press with ground tactical support, helicopters, aerial imagery, criminal analysis, logistics, computer networks and reclamation efforts.
"We assist law-enforcement agencies by gathering information from traffic stops, suspected grow areas and suspected drop points and generate intelligence reports that can be used to piece it all together," said Maj. Sean Bothelio, the intelligence officer for the California National Guard's Joint Task Force Domestic Support–Counterdrug.
Miles of plastic irrigation line and tons of pesticides, fertilizer and garbage were removed from the forest.
"[Criminal organizations] are clearcutting trees, poaching animals, damaging water sources and poisoning the forest," said Lt. Sam Castillo of the California Department of Fish and Game. "It is common for the growers to use rodenticides, pesticides and fertilizers, many of which are illegally brought into this country. That eventually gets into water that is consumed by plants, animals and people."
Full Court Press resulted in seizure or eradication of 632,000 marijuana plants and 2,000 pounds of processed marijuana, according to the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office.
–By Master Sgt. David J. Loeffler
Read the full article at http://www.nationalguardmagazine.com/article/State+Roundup/855940/83707/article.html.