Military News

Sunday, September 14, 2008

National Guard Sandbags Levee, Protects Highway

By Louisiana National Guard Sgt. Michael L. Owens
American Forces Press Service

Sept. 13, 2008 - On the seventh anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on America, soldiers and airmen of the
Louisiana National Guard assisted Plaquemines Parish by sandbagging a levee that protects Highway 23, the main artery for entering and exiting Plaquemines Parish, as a precaution against Hurricane Ike's storm surge. The levee, which was overtopped and breached when Hurricane Gustav passed through the area, had suffered damaging erosion caused by heavy rainfall throughout the year.

"There are eight dips and low spots in the levee that were caused from erosion," said Blair G. Rittiner, Plaquemines Parish land superintendent. "If these holes are not filled or repaired, it may cause the levee to breach again. Basically, we are putting band-aids on the levee."

Although
Louisiana is not expecting a direct hit from Hurricane Ike, Plaquemines Parish is expecting at least a four foot storm surge e as it passes through the Gulf of Mexico.

"The levees are about three feet high," explained Spc. John M. Clement, G Company, 1-141st Field Artillery Battalion, 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. "We are putting lots of sandbags here that will eventually raise the height to about four feet."

Plaquemines Parish dips deep into South
Louisiana and has the most combined land and water area in the state. The parish suffered minor flooding after a portion of its levee breached as a result of rising water from Hurricane Gustav. Unlike the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, there were no reports of homes flooding in the parish due to Gustav.

Joint Task Force 129 Airmen Rescue Civilians Stranded in Galveston

By Air National Guard Capt. Alyson Teeter
American Forces Press Service

Sept. 13, 2008 -
California Air National Guardsmen from the 129th Rescue Wing rescued eight people yesterday in Galveston, Texas. The air guardsmen deployed to Kelly Field in San Antonio for Hurricane Ike search and rescue support operations. A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter on search and rescue patrol spotted unevacuated civilians waving from a bridge on the Bolivar Peninsula near Galveston. Flooding conditions due to Hurricane Ike severed an access road onto the peninsula and the civilians were stranded. U.S. Coast Guard and Texas Army National Guard helicopters picked up about 30 people.

Soon after the bridge rescues, a
Coast Guard helicopter and four Joint Task Force 129 helicopters, including two 129th RQW HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters and pararescuemen, arrived on scene to assist.

During the aerial reconnaissance the crews found no one else on the bridge because it was under water, said Maj. Matthew Thomas, 129th Rescue Wing pilot and co-pilot for Jolly 92.

The
Coast Guard then dispatched the JTF 129 helicopters to a home nearby on the northeast side of Galveston. The house was flooding and a call for help had been made to the Coast Guard. According to Thomas, the stranded civilians had called their relatives in Illinois for help. The relatives then called the Coast Guard.

The Pave Hawk, Jolly 92, landed in a small grassy area and pararescuemen, also known as PJs, went to the house to rescue the four stranded civilians. "The area where we landed was under water 10 minutes later," Thomas said.

A second JTF 129 helicopter, Jolly 91, was hovering nearby during the rescue, and the sound of the helicopter prompted additional unevacuated civilians to leave their homes, said Capt. Brian Finnerty, 129th Rescue Wing pilot and flight lead for Jolly 91.
Two PJs rappelled from Jolly 91 and attempted to convince civilians that they needed to evacuate. Some civilians refused to leave and opted to stay in their homes, Finnerty said. The PJs hoisted two people and two dogs into the Pave Hawk, and the crew eventually dropped them off at Ellington Field in Houston.

While Jolly 91 picked up the two civilians, Jolly 92 was hovering nearby with the family of four. The crew picked up two more people and pets. The crews spotted one man with a spotlight - his house was surrounded by water. The PJs hoisted the man up in to the helicopter.

Jolly 92 headed to Ellington Field with the six rescued civilians and pets. The helicopters then returned to Kelly Field. "Winds at that point were at 60 knots and visibility was low - it was time for us to go," Thomas said.

Overall, four Air National Guard Pave Hawks and JTF 129 personnel saved 15 adults, one child, and four dogs.

Joint Task Force 129 is a self-contained search and rescue unit comprised of more than 100 people, including highly trained pararescuemen, four HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopters, and two MC-130P Combat Shadow tankers. Air National Guardsmen from the 176th Wing, Kulis Air National Guard Base, Ala., are also part of the rescue task force.

As an Air National Guard unit, many of the 129th's past missions involved supporting state emergencies that included earthquakes, chemical spills, fires and floods. Equipped with MC-130P Combat Shadow tankers and HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopters, the 129th has performed a wide variety of civilian search and rescue missions, including distressed persons aboard ships, lost or injured hikers, and medical evacuations.

(Capt. Alyson Teeter is assigned to the Air National Guard's 129th Rescue Wing Public Affairs)

Top Military Health Official Promotes Prostate Cancer Awareness

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

Sept. 12, 2008 - As a man afflicted with prostate cancer, the top Defense Department
military health official has a unique perspective on the importance of promoting awareness about the disease. Now in his eighth year living with an aggressive form of cancer, Ward Casscells, M.D., the assistant secretary of defense for Health Affairs, understands the importance of early detection. But he realizes the stigma that members of the military culture often attach to certain screening methods.

"It's hard enough to get them to wear a motorcycle helmet," he said in an interview today, which falls almost on the ides of September -- National Prostate Health Month.

The doctor sought treatment in his forties when he began feeling vague discomfort in his pelvic region. After undergoing a colonoscopy, his doctor told him his Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) readout -- which measures the protein produced by the cells of the prostate gland, and can indicate the presence of cancer -- was at a normal level.

But by age 49, further testing showed that Casscells in fact had prostate cancer with a PSA level around 94 – well above the healthy average readout of four. In addition, he learned that the cancer had spread to other parts of his body.

Casscells believes that his early tests – a blood test and CAT scan – had been misdiagnosed. He says problems of misinterpretation can be mitigated by patients being prepared to inquire about their health.

"I always have a list of questions, and I don't leave until I get an answer," he said of his regular doctor's visits.

Casscells also urged current and retired
military members age 40 to 50 to get a screening, and to consult multiple medical sources. For patients who are deemed "at risk," or who are on "watchful waiting," the doctor recommends changing their diets, becoming more active, increasing their intake of vitamin D. He also emphasized the importance of upping one's exposure to sunlight. "I bought myself a convertible and threw away the sunscreen," he said.

Cancer targeting the prostate is the most common form of cancer developed in men. Accordingly, he said, the onus is on servicemembers to encourage their buddies to seek treatment as their forties approach.

Casscells' story is one of unique intrepidity. After being diagnosed with his potentially terminal cancer, he experienced a common reaction: physical and emotional hardships, some depression, even grief. His response afterwards, however, was anything but ordinary.

The doctor, who had served as the Distinguished Professor of Medicine (Cardiology) and Public Health at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, never missed a day of work. Later, after deploying to Iraq as a doctor in the
Army Reserve, he underwent chemotherapy in Baghdad.

After learning that his improved health required a radical change in behavior, Casscells, who described himself as not very athletic earlier in life, adopted a regimen of running and a diet absent meats, despite his appetite for char-grilled burgers. He advocates similar modifications for afflicted, or at-risk, men.

"If I can do it," he said humbly, "anybody can."

Hurricane Ike Rescues Underway in Texas and Louisiana

By Army Staff Sgt. Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service

Sept. 13, 2008 - Federal and State response forces have begun what Texas Governor Rick Perry is calling the largest search and rescue ever in his state today as more than 100,000 residents are estimated to have ignored Hurricane Ike evacuation warnings. Ike reached the Texas shores early this morning as a category 2 storm with upwards of 110 mph winds, flooding thousands of homes and leaving millions without power. The hurricane was later downgraded to a tropical storm, and as it continues to weakens, first responders are moving in.

More than 3,300 active-duty
military members are prepared for search and rescue operations, said Mike Kucharek, spokesman for U.S. Army Northern Command.

Also, there are about 7,500 Texas National Guardsmen activated and providing assistance in Galveston, Houston, Lufkin and
Orange County, which are some of the hardest hit areas.

Emergency response agencies are staging their logistics area for commodities support and distribution efforts from Randolph
Air Force Base near San Antonio, Texas, Kucharek said. More than 40 distribution points are set up across eastern Texas and Louisiana too to provide food, water, ice and medical support.

Response teams have more than 100 helicopters, 88 high-water vehicles and 21 short-raft boats available for rescue missions, he added.

Around 50 of those helicopters, from National Guard assets, are already airborne and conducting rescue operations,
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said during a press briefing from Washington today.

"We're particularly focused on those areas hit with storm surge," Chertoff said. But he added that even in the areas where flooding is not as significant, people should still remain cautious. "The most dangerous period of the storm is what occurs after the storm has moved on," he continued.

Chertoff cautioned power outages, fallen trees and debris, down power lines and other types of hazards across the effected areas in Texas and Louisiana.

"People should exercise extreme caution as they get out and about, so we don't have injuries and loss of life going forward from this point on," he said.

In Texas, particularly the Galveston area, a large amount of state,
Coast Guard and Defense Department helicopters are conducting recovery efforts. The most recent reports state more than 120 people have been rescued. Authorities in Louisiana are tracking 179 rescues already along with one dog rescue, Chertoff said.

Texas estimates 2.2 million people fled their homes, while Louisiana estimates 130,000. Though many of the evacuees are in hotels and shelters, officials are urging them not to return until authorities announce areas are safe, he said.

President Bush today declared 29 counties in Texas as major disaster areas, which Chertoff said clears the way for federal funding for individuals and local community efforts for debris removal. This will relieve a significant burden as local and state authorities move forward with recovery operations, he said.

The storm is projected to continue its path through north Texas into Arkansas with driving rain, strong winds and the possibility of tornadoes, and is still considered dangerous, Chertoff said.

"It may not be as dramatic as the scenes you saw on television right at the coast," he said, "but exercising prudence for everybody in the path of this storm is very strongly recommended, so we can minimize the loss of life as much as we can."

National Guard Helps Evacuate Three Households in Louisiana

By Sgt. 1st Class Paul Meeker
Special to American Forces Press Service

Sept. 13, 2008 - Members of three different Hackberry, La., households stayed in their homes through the fierce winds and flooding of Hurricane Ike, believing they wouldn't suffer any worse than they did during Hurricane Rita in September 2005. However, the water rose three to four feet in their homes, compared to one foot three years ago. "Water came in around 9 p.m. We had made plans to go into the attic and had provisions there, so that's where we went," said Leroy East of Hackberry. "We stayed this time because it took us so long to get back to our property after Rita. But I won't stay again."

The six adults and two pets were rescued from their homes by Hackberry Firemen who picked them up via boat. The fire department had been alerted to their whereabouts by Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries agents who had received a cell phone call from a relative of one of the stranded residents.

The National Guard helicopter piloted by Chief Warrant Officers Kevin Dares and Don Pierce picked them up from high ground and transported them to the Million Air hangar at Chennault Airport in Lake Charles, La.

From there, Wildlife and Fisheries agents assisted the evacuees by helping them make contact with friends and relatives who could pick them up.

The rescued citizens were Floyd and Bernadette Silver, Leroy and Pamela East, David Benoit and Dolores Duhon, as well as one dog, Tiny, and one cat, Bobaloo.

Louisiana Guardsmen Answer the Call as Hurricane Ike Slams the Coast

By Army Maj. David W. May
Special to American Forces Press Service

Sept. 13, 2008 - As Hurricane Ike slammed ashore today, the National Guard was already at work evacuating stranded citizens from their homes and other locations across Southwest
Louisiana. By noon today, members of the Louisiana National Guard's 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, working in conjunction with local and state authorities, rescued 19 people, including three children, as well as four family pets, and responded to numerous calls for assistance from both civilians and other rescue agencies.

The day began hours before daylight, as National Guard members prepared their rescue equipment and vehicles and themselves mentally for whatever the day might bring.

Around 7 a.m., a line of high-water vehicles and humvees loaded with troops rolled out of their armories to begin the process of locating those in need and getting them to safety.

Almost as soon as they rolled out, soldiers reported flooding and street blockages throughout the area – in lower Vermillion Parish, water rose fast and threatened two of the towns including Erath High School; water at Pen Street Park rising nearly six inches an hour; an apartment complex had water coming in on the first floor; power outages occurred in multiple locations; communications went down, and the reports continued.

Just before 8 a.m., a paraplegic trapped in his home called for rescue. By the time soldiers arrived,
police had removed the man, but another family of six called needing evacuation and the Guardsmen obliged, transporting them to Chennault Air Park in Lake Charles, La. Another rescue occurred soon after in Westlake, La.

Soldiers were also asked to assist the
Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries with a rescue request of 17 people.

By 10 a.m., the Guard received several more requests including one with residents trapped in their subdivision and an elderly couple stuck in their home. In the meantime, waters continued to rise and winds showed no signs of abating.

Throughout the effort, estimates cited sustained winds of 40 mph and gusts up to 60 mph, which only served to complicate efforts.

By midday, the Guard received various other requests for assistance and responded to a group of people stranded in a casino parking lot and others who had to be rescued by boat.

Even as the requests continue to pour in, the 256th has no plans of slowing effort or of curbing operations. They will stay on mission as long as they are needed, according to officials.

"We're proud of the work our troops are doing out there," said Lt. Col. James Waskom, deputy commander of the 256th. "But we've got to keep our head in the game because there is lots of work still out there to do."

(
Army Maj. David W. May is assigned to Louisiana National Guard Public Affairs.)

Kentucky Air Guard Troops Deploy to Coastal Texas

By Air Force Capt. Dale Greer
Special to American Forces Press Service

Sept. 13, 2008 - About 25 pararescuemen, combat controllers and support troops from the
Kentucky Air Guard's 123rd Special Tactics Squadron began deploying to coastal Texas today to conduct rescue operations for victims of Hurricane Ike. The Airmen began leaving the Air Guard Base at Louisville International Airport at 5:35 p.m. aboard multiple Kentucky Air Guard C-130s.

The aircraft, bound for Ellington Field near Houston, were loaded with thousands of pounds of medical gear and rescue equipment, including Zodiac motor boats, swift-water rescue boats, all-terrain vehicles, off-road motorcycles and a
Special Tactics operations center, said Chief Master Sgt. Pat Malone, a superintendent in the squadron.

"We're taking everything we need today to establish airfield operations, begin rescue efforts and provide medical assistance as necessary," Malone said.

The equipment also included long-range communications gear and navigational electronics, which the squadron's combat controllers use to control emergency air traffic into and out of disaster areas.

"We can deploy into any environment and establish airfield operations and air traffic control very quickly," Malone said. "That's crucial for successful rescue operations."

Following Hurricane Katrina, for example, members of the 123rd
Special Tactics Squadron established a helicopter landing zone on an Interstate overpass and helped direct helicopter med-evac flights that airlifted more than 11,900 to safety.

(
Air Force Capt. Dale Greer is assigned to the Kentucky Air National Guard.)

Texas Guard Leader Vows All-Out Effort for Hurricane Ike

American Forces Press Service

Sept. 12, 2008 - Texas National Guard personnel began rescuing residents stranded by rising waters Friday afternoon, and the Lone Star State's National Guard commander vowed to resume relief missions as soon as Hurricane Ike vents its anticipated fury on the
Houston region sometime Saturday. "After the storm passes, whatever the surge may be or the damage may be, our primary mission is to get back in there as soon as we can," said Maj. Gen. Charles Rodriguez, the state's adjutant general, on Friday.

Meanwhile Friday, two Texas
Army Guard Blackhawk helicopters reportedly rescued 16 civilians who were stranded by high waters on a bridge near Bolivar Island, in the mouth of Galveston Bay near Houston, and flew them to Ellington Field in Houston. High winds in advance of the hurricane forced the helicopter crews to return to their base, Texas officials reported.

National Guard officials reported as many as 300 people were stranded in vehicles on the bridge.

The state has established Texas Task Force Ike comprised of
military and civilian law enforcement and emergency management personnel, Rodriguez said.

Gov. Rick Perry earlier this week authorized calling up 7,500 National Guard Soldiers and Airmen to state active duty because of the emergency. About 3,000 Soldiers, Airmen and 500 high-water vehicles, generators and other assets have already been deployed for the pre-landfall phase of operations.

"The No. 1 mission is search and rescue, second is damage assessment, and third is setting up points of distribution," Rodriguez said. "We're going to use helicopters for damage assessment and rescue missions."

The task force is also prepared to position another 500 vehicles at points of distribution. The National Guard plans to hand out water, ice, and food provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency at distribution points throughout the area.

(From a National Guard Bureau news release.)

National Guard Patrols Grand Isle Waters

By Indiana Army National Guard Spc. William E. Henry
American Forces Press Service

Sept. 13, 2008 - GRAND ISLE, La. – In an effort to prevent looting of area residents' property and local businesses,
Louisiana National Guardsmen began patrolling the waters along the north shore of Grand Isle, La. The 2225th Multi-Role Bridge Company of the 205th Engineer Battalion arrived with MK-2 Bridge Erection Boats originally designed to build bridges in strong currents. Fortunately, these special boats also perform well in the security and patrol missions the unit was performing.

Coordinating with local
law enforcement, the National Guard Special Reaction Team and the 1083rd Transportation Company, the 2225th say they are more than prepared for the mission.

"We have SRT members of the
Louisiana National Guard on board our vessels that patrol day and night. We use night-vision goggles to monitor during the night patrols and help deter any looting," said 1st. Sgt. Kevin Giroir of the bridge company.

There about 15 SRT members on site that have detention and arrest powers. "We're the state's military SWAT team," said Spc. Coleman Barnett of the SRT.

The 2225th and the SRT are responsible for seven miles of coastline. They patrol the area with six vessels and are required to approach and identify anyone coming into the area.

"There are a lot of expensive homes here. People come to Grand Isle for their own enjoyment; it's a fishing community and an oil field port," said Sgt. 1st Class Brian LeBoeuf of the 2225th. "People have their homes here and like anyone else, they don't want to lose them. We're providing a helping hand to keep trespassers out so they can start their lives again when the storm is over."

Hurricane Hunters Track Ike as Storm Moves Toward Texas

By Air Force Tech. Sgt. James B. Pritchett
Special to American Forces Press Service

Sept. 12, 2008 - Barreling toward the
Texas coast, Hurricane Ike is gaining strength as millions of residents in the storm's forecast path evacuate in expectation of an overnight landfall tonight. As Ike entered the Gulf of Mexico after battering Cuba this week, a WC-130J Hurricane Hunter crew based here flew into the storm, pinpointing the center and sending flight-level and surface-level readings back to the National Hurricane Center via satellite.

Citizen-airmen of the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, charged with flying directly into the eye of nature's most powerful storms, continue around-the-clock flights into Ike giving forecasters at the NHC the best possible data.

Hurricane Ike, now a Category 2 on the Safir-Simpson Scale, is expected to intensify before making landfall early tomorrow. The storm already has killed 80 people in the Caribbean and took a significant toll on parts of Cuba, especially areas previously affected by Hurricane Gustav.

As of 8 a.m. EDT today, Ike's center was about 365 miles east of Corpus Christi,
Texas, and about 230 miles southeast of Galveston, Texas, according to a National Hurricane Center advisory.

Maximum sustained winds were at 105 mph, but the storm is expected to strengthen before it moves ashore, and is forecast to be a major hurricane by then, the advisory said. The storm is moving west-northwest at 13 mph. A turn to the northwest is expected today, forecasters said, with a turn toward the north expected tomorrow.

Residents in the projected path and near those regions are urged to pay close attention to government and news sources in their areas for critical watches and warnings.

(
Air Force Tech. Sgt. James B. Pritchett serves in the 403rd Wing Public Affairs Office.)

High-Water Vehicles Highlight Guard's Response Arsenal

By Air Force Master Sgt. Greg Rudl
Special to American Forces Press Service

Sept. 12, 2008 - In war, they're called combat vehicles. But when Mother Nature strikes and people are stranded by flood waters, those big trucks with their big tires and high ground clearance get a different name. National Guard units in some states call them high-water vehicles. Others describe them as high-clearance or high-wheeled. But whatever the name, governors, adjutants general and other state
military leaders want to know how many they have, especially when the waters rise.

During domestic response missions, the big trucks plow through high water to rescue residents, carry boats that also help rescue people, and bring food and water to the victims of calamities.

Just how vital are these big trucks to the Guard's domestic response missions?

-- As Hurricane Ike approached the Gulf Coast yesterday with predictions of five to 10 inches of rain, the Texas National Guard was assembling 900 personnel and 500 high-water vehicles in
San Antonio for major search-and-rescue missions.

-- In August, Florida
Army Guard soldiers drove a high-water vehicle through flooded roads in Osteen, Fla., searching for people needing assistance or evacuation due to the floodwaters from Tropical Storm Fay.

-- Missouri soldiers used high-water vehicles to deliver 11,520 meals to residents of flood-ravaged Iowa in June.

-- The National Guard from several states pre-positioned more than 3,800 high-water vehicles in and around New Orleans in late August as Hurricane Gustav approached.

-- When storms flooded Vernonia, Ore., in early December 2007, high-water vehicles were used to rescue hundreds of people.

-- When flooding hit Pennsylvania and New
Jersey in June and July 2006, more than 1,000 Guard members used high-wheeled vehicles for water rescues, evacuations and other emergency operations along the Delaware River.

While as little as six inches of water can cause a car to lose control, and two feet can carry most cars away, most high-water vehicles can plow through several feet of water.

"The [light medium tactical vehicle] can carry up to 15 people and has a high ground clearance, which allows them operate in up to four feet of water,"
Army Lt. Col. Len Gratteri, a Delaware National Guard spokesman, said in early May after tidal flooding and heavy rains in his state led Guard members to deploy LMTVs.

Army National Guard logistics division officials said the 54 states and territories have 22,244 high-water vehicles, ranging from 1,159 in Pennsylvania to 15 in the Virgin Islands. The division considers everything from 2.5-ton trucks to the M977 heavy, expanded-mobility tactical truck, or HEMTT, as high-water vehicles. The total doesn't include the ubiquitous Humvee, which can ford through five feet of water when equipped with the proper kit.

For emergency response, the
Army Guard relies heavily on the LMTV -- its cargo and van models have a 2.5-ton capacity -- and the medium tactical vehicle, which has a 5-ton capacity. Both entered service in 1996, have automatic transmissions, and run on jet fuel.

The HEMTT comes in five models and stands more than eight feet tall. The lightest version weighs well over 30,000 pounds and is capable of fording water up to four feet deep. Although the Humvee is not considered a high-water vehicle, with a deep water-fording kit it can drive through five feet of water.

These trucks are heavy as well as high, which means they are considerably less likely to float away. The LMTV, for example, weighs more than 13 tons.

Florida
Army Guard transportation soldiers made sure their high-water vehicles were in working order as Hurricane Gustav neared their state in late August.

Also in August, after Tropical Storm Fay brought heavy rain to much of Florida, members of the 254th Transportation Battalion used high-water vehicles in four southern counties to help emergency first-responders perform damage and flood assessment.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Robert Talent, a truckmaster for the battalion, helped with the assessment missions.

"The LMTV is very useful, because it is so versatile," he explained, pointing out the five high-water trucks in the motor pool at his armory. Talent added that LMTV drivers know and follow their safety guidelines when driving through high water.

(
Air Force Master Sgt. Greg Rudl serves at the National Guard Bureau.)