Monday, July 02, 2012

Obama Calls Firefighting Airmen Heroes

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 2, 2012 – President Barack Obama released a statement today calling the airmen battling wildfires in the Rocky Mountain region “heroes who deserve the appreciation of a grateful nation.”

The statement comes following a crash yesterday of a North Carolina Air National Guard C-130 as its crew was battling a wildfire in South Dakota.

Here is the president’s statement:

Yesterday, a military C-130 from the North Carolina Air National Guard crashed while supporting firefighting efforts in South Dakota. The full details are still under investigation, but the crew of this flight – along with their families and loved ones – are in our thoughts and prayers.

The men and women battling these terrible fires across the West put their lives on the line every day for their fellow Americans. The airmen who attack these fires from above repeatedly confront dangerous conditions in an effort to give firefighters on the ground a chance to contain these wildfires – to save homes, businesses, schools, and entire communities. They are heroes who deserve the appreciation of a grateful nation.

I know Americans across the country share my concern for the well-being of the surviving members of the crew and my deep condolences to the families of those who lost their lives. And I know that Americans join me in expressing my deepest gratitude for the selfless determination they and thousands of men and women involved in this fight in states across the country demonstrate every day.

Wisconsin National Guard engages community at Rhythm and Booms

By 1st Sgt. Vaughn R. Larson
Wisconsin National Guard

The Wisconsin National Guard howitzers that fire powder charges and the F-16 Falcon fighter jets that fly overhead during the National Anthem at the annual Rhythm and Booms celebration at Madison's Warner Park are more than just show - they are a tangible reminder of the assets, capabilities and missions found in National Guard units in communities across Wisconsin.

"These are real howitzers," Command Sgt. Maj. James Ward of the Wisconsin Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 120th Field Artillery explained to Mike and Casey McCabe of Madison, Wis., in response to their questions about the four 105-mm cannons lined up at Warner Park June 30. "These are what we would take overseas to war, if needed."

The 115th Fighter Wing also hosted approximately 180 local civic and business leaders and their families at the Wisconsin Air National Guard base in Madison during Rhythm and Booms.

"This is our first event recognizing the Badger Air Community Council, an independent community council that's standing up to support the 115th Fighter Wing Airmen," said Brig. Gen. Joseph Brandemuehl, 115th commander. "It's a great way to demonstrate to local civic leaders and leaders in the community what we have here at the fighter wing - our capabilities, what our mission is, what our people do, and the impact we have on the community."

Among the prominent local business leaders behind the Badger Air Community Council, Brandemuehl said, are Pat Richter, Dave Anderson, Marv Siegert and Dave Lenz. Richter supported the annual Military Achievement Awards when he was an executive with Oscar Mayer Foods, and Lenz retired as a major in the Wisconsin Air National Guard's 176th Tactical Fighter Squadron, a subordinate unit of the 115th Fighter Wing.

"We're trying to show them behind the scenes what goes on - what goes into a fly-by, what goes into an event like this - that there's a lot more behind it than just the jets flying over," Brandemuehl continued. "There's usually about 40 Airmen when you talk about the maintenance side of the house, just to get the jets airborne. It also gives them a slice of what we do on a daily basis Monday through Friday as well."

The event included static displays of an F-16 jet, inert munitions, an F-16 flight simulator, and chairs and sound system for watching the fireworks.

"It's a good way to educate the local people on what an F-16 is," said Maj. Tim Dyer, "and also the munitions we use when we deploy to a foreign location as far as our missions are concerned."

Maj. Mike Palmer, who with Dyer helped organize the event at the 115th Fighter Wing, said the unit was putting greater emphasis on telling its story to the community.

"If you look at the role we play and how efficient we do the job, we're trying to tell that story to the rest of the world," Palmer said. "We know times are tough right now and money's tight, and we think we have a very efficient, highly educated group of people that we want to see continue forward into the future to keep the base open and defend our country at an efficient cost."

"This is our way of showing gratitude for their support," Dyer said.

Back at Warner Park, the public also demonstrated its appreciation for the Wisconsin National Guard, as handshakes and "Thank you for your service" became a common refrain heard near the howitzers.

Firefighting C-130s Placed on Operational Hold After Crash

Compiled from U.S. Northern Command and 153rd Air Expeditionary Group News Releases

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo., July 2, 2012 – In what officials describe as “a prudent measure,” all military C-130 aircraft equipped with the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System have been placed on operational hold after one of the aircraft crashed yesterday.

A MAFFS-equipped C-130 from the North Carolina Air National Guard’s 145th Airlift Wing crashed while battling a fire in southwestern South Dakota at about 6:30 p.m. Mountain time yesterday, officials said.

“There were casualties, and our thoughts and prayers go out to those who were injured and those who lost their lives,” U.S. Northern Command officials said in a written statement today. “The family members of these airmen are especially on our minds. We will provide further details on the status of the casualties soon.”

The cause of the crash has not been determined, and the incident is under investigation, officials said. At the time of the crash, the crew was fighting the White Draw Fire near Edgemont, S.D.

Yesterday’s crash was the first in the 40-year history of the MAFFS program, a joint Defense Department and U.S. Forest Service program that provides additional aerial firefighting resources when commercial and private air tankers are no longer able to meet the Forest Service’s needs. MAFFS is a self-contained aerial firefighting system owned by the Forest Service that can discharge 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant in less than five seconds, covering an area a quarter of a mile long by 100 feet wide.

The MAFFS-equipped fleet is spending today getting the crews together to “reflect, reset and review,” said Air Force Col. Jerry Champlin, 153rd Air Expeditionary Group commander. "We all need to make sure our crews and planes will be ready to re-engage in the mission safely."

U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said the agency is deeply saddened by this tragic incident. "The agency fully supports the decision by the military to stand down its MAFFS operation to address the needs of personnel and families and ensure the safety of the mission when it resumes,” he said. “The agency will continue to allocate available firefighting assets according to the prioritization of incidents."

It is not known when the MAFFS aircraft will resume operations, officials said.

Guard Responds to Weather Damage, Wildfires

By Army Sgt. Darron Salzer
National Guard Bureau

ARLINGTON, Va., July 2, 2012 – National Guard soldiers and airmen are responding to damage left behind by severe weather and destructive wildfires in several states across the U.S. today.

Along the East Coast and in parts of the Midwest, high temperatures and severe thunderstorms caused power outages for millions over the weekend.

More than 750 Guard members from the District of Columbia, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia responded to provide traffic control points, door-to-door health and wellness checks and debris removal.

West Virginia National Guard members have cleared more than 920 truckloads of debris from the storm and have helped with refueling of backup generators at hospitals and nursing homes, officials said.

In Florida, where heavy rains from Tropical Storm Debby lingered for several days, about 70 Florida National Guard members are continuing flood support missions. Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Air Force Maj. Gen. Emmett R. Titshaw Jr., state’s adjutant general, visited residents in the affected areas June 29.

“Talking to some of the people, it was very gratifying to hear when they told me they were rescued by the Florida National Guard,” Titshaw said. “It’s the reason we do what we do.”

In the western states, Guard members from Colorado continue to battle wildfires there that have burned more than 100,000 acres of woodlands and either destroyed or damaged personal property. National Guard reports said that as of yesterday, the High Park wildfire was 100 percent contained and the Waldo Canyon wildfire was 45 percent contained.

Guard members also are responding to wildfires in Montana, Nebraska and Wyoming, where operations include setting up checkpoints and providing UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters equipped with buckets for aerial fire support.

New burn care center fully operational in San Antonio

SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- The U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research began a new era in burn and combat casualty trauma care when the staff moved its patients into the burn intensive care unit recently.

They performed the first surgical procedure May 25, in one of two operating rooms of the new burn center in the San Antonio Military Medical Center, or SAMMC, consolidated tower at Joint Base San Antonio - Fort Sam Houston.

The completion of the move comes several weeks after the initial move of the burn rehabilitation center, the outpatient clinic, the administrative section, and the clinical studies branch.

"The new burn center challenges us to use all that we have learned during the war and improve care for the benefit of all future burn patients admitted to our center," said Col. Evan Rez, Burn Center director.

Renz said the move marks a monumental milestone for the only Department of Defense burn center.

"The long anticipated occupation of the new burn center highlights the organization's enduring commitment to combat casualty care and research," he said.

As the only burn center for the DOD for more than 50 years, it has been providing specialized care for casualties with severe burns, inhalation injury, and complex soft-tissue trauma, or BICU, sustained in combat or accidents.

In addition, it serves as the regional burn center for South Central Texas, providing care for hundreds of civilian emergency patients each year.

"Our role as a regional burn center is twofold," said burn center Chief Nurse Lt. Col. Louis Stout.

Stout said the first is to provide a critical service. The second is the necessity to remain clinically proficient in times of peace so that we can assume our mission rapidly in times of conflict.

"These are perishable skills that are not easily, or quickly, mastered and must be maintained" she said.

The center is located on the fourth floor of the new seven-story tower at SAMMC and is approximately 40 percent larger in size than the previous unit.

Some of the new features include two operating rooms with cameras installed in the surgical lights to transmit live videos of surgical procedures to monitors in the operating rooms and nurses' stations, and a conference room for educational purposes for medical students and staff.

The new facility also combines two eight-bed burn intensive care units into one 16-bed unit where each BICU room utilizes a 360-degree design in which most of the vital equipment is attached to a ceiling-mounted boom, allowing the patient's bed to rotate completely around the room.

"The successful transition to the new burn center has validated the integral value of a multidisciplinary approach to patient care," said clinical nurse Maj. Trinity Peak, BICU officer-in-charge.

It also reaffirmed staff that they have the skills and knowledge to accomplish their mission anywhere and at anytime, he said, while never losing sight of the the patient."

Since 2003, the burn center has cared for approximately 1,000 wounded warriors evacuated from Iraq and Afghanistan and 2,500 civilian patients from the South Central Texas region. The Burn Center employs approximately 300 staff members with multiple critical burn care skills from the Army, civil service, and contractors.

The United States Army Surgical Research is a subordinate command of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command.

The mission to "optimize combat casualty care" is accomplished by conducting science and clinical research in the fields of damage control resuscitation, homeostasis, engineering, and tissue regeneration affecting combat casualties, including burns.