Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Texas Army Guard retires Army's last A-model AH-64 Apache helicopter

By Sofia Bledsoe
Program Executive Office, Aviation

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. (7/17/12) - It was a proud, historic and emotional moment for the Soldiers of the Texas Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 149th Aviation Regiment (Attack/Reconnaissance) as the last AH-64A Apache helicopter, aircraft 451, was “retired” from the Army and handed over to the Project Office for Apache Helicopters during a ceremony on Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base in Houston, July 15. The event was hosted by the battalion as it was the unit that had the last A-model Apache in its fleet.

The aircraft will be flown to San Angelo, Texas, by Chief Warrant Officer Five Jim Sandberg, standardization pilot with the unit, and Chief Warrant Officer Two Adrian Domonoski, maintenance test officer with the unit, where it will be ‘depopulated’ or disassembled, then reconfigurated into the next generation AH-64D Apache Longbow.

“As the Project Manager for the Apache attack helicopter, I’m really proud to take custody of the 451,” said Army Col. Shane Openshaw. “In about a year from now, you’ll see 451 come out of the production line as the latest and last AH-64D.”

And many in the unit were sad to see the aircraft go, despite its scheduled return as an upgraded model.

“It’s like losing an old friend,” said Army Capt. Stacy James Rostorfer, commander of B Company, 1st Bn., 149th Avn. Regt. “That aircraft has saved my life; it has saved many lives. It’s armored in all the right places, so you can go in, protect others and protect yourself. We always brought everybody home.” 

Rostorfer said he had been an Apache fan as a young man and recalled playing with Apache models when he was ten years old. “They’re still in the basement of my parents’ house. I’ll never part with it.”

During the ceremony, Army Lt. Col. Derrek Hryhorchuk, commander of the battalion, recounted the unit’s heroism, remembering that aircraft 451 kept them safe and alive. 

“We’re going to make sure that aircraft goes out in style,” he said. Hryhorchuk had flown the Apache’s predecessor, the AH-1 Cobra, and noted that things that needed to be improved in the Cobra were in place in the A-model Apache. “I’m looking forward to the capabilities that needed to be improved in the A-model that are now in the D-model Longbow.”

Despite the highlight of the aircraft, the ceremony also focused on the Soldiers.

  “I’m not here to talk about the aircraft,” said Army Maj. Gen. William “Tim” Crosby, program executive officer for Army aviation. “I’m here to talk about you. You, the Soldiers of the Texas National Guard, who have stood up and said, ‘I want to make a difference. I want to give back to my country’. And it’s your pride, your courage, your passion that make that aircraft special. Because aircraft don’t fly. Aviators fly. And they fly because of the mechanics and the crew chiefs who make them ready to fly.”

Aircraft 451 has had a long and proud history with the unit, who was recently nominated for the Valorous Unit Award. Four of its aviators had been recognized for their heroism and extraordinary achievements with the Distinguished Flying Crosses in Ramadi, Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Aircraft 451 took numerous heavy ballistic damage, but the aircraft and crew and the Soldiers they protected always came home safely.

 In one case, aircraft 451 was used to quite literally bring a wounded Soldier home.
During a firefight that took place when the unit was deployed to Iraq, an infantry Soldier was seriously wounded. Traditional medical evacuation assets were not able to respond. The crew of aircraft 451 landed and placed the wounded Soldier in the front seat of the Apache. The co-pilot/ gunner, who would normally occupy that seat, attached himself to the aircraft by the wing and fuselage holds. The wounded Soldier was quickly treated and provided the advanced care he needed. In the end, he recovered fully from his wounds.

For this action, the crew was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

“After you get through a couple of weeks in combat, you strap yourself into an Apache, you feel a sense of invincibility,” said Col. Richard Adams, 36th CAB commander. “There are a lot of sons and daughters in America who are alive because of that aircraft.”

South Carolina Army Guard aviation unit delivers a piece of history to military museum

By Army Staff Sgt. Jorge Infriago
South Carolina National Guard

COLUMBIA, S.C (7/17/12). - Soldiers from the South Carolina Army National Guard’s B Company, 2nd Battalion, 238th Aviation Regiment took part in unique training in preparation for an upcoming deployment while at the same time giving an old bird one more chance to soar.

The Soldiers from the unit airlifted an H-13B Sioux helicopter from Pierre, South Dakota, to its new home at the South Carolina Military Museum, which focuses on the history of the South Carolina National Guard.

The Sioux is a three-man observation and basic training helicopter that was used by the U.S. military throughout the 1950s. The Sioux is often said to be the birth of Army rotary wing aviation and it has a significant role in the history of the South Carolina Army Guard.

“The helicopter was significant to South Carolina,” said E.G. “Buddy” Sturgis, director of the South Carolina Military Museum. “It was the first rotor wing in South Carolina Army (Guard) aviation.”

The only problem was how to get the newly acquired helicopter down to South Carolina. That’s where the South Carolina Army Guard stepped in. The Soldiers from B Company have been preparing for an upcoming deployment to Afghanistan by performing cross-country flying missions flying the CH-47 Chinook helicopter.

 The Soldiers from the unit needed additional cross-country flying time for their deployment and unit members jumped at the chance to perform this unique historical mission to help transport the helicopter to its new home.

“I think it was nice to be involved in the aircraft’s last flight from South Dakota to South Carolina before the aircraft’s final home at the museum,” said Spc. Tommy Hunt, flight engineer with B Company.

The Sioux is scheduled to go on display at the South Carolina Military Museum in the near future. South Carolina Army Guard members and museum staff are working together to restore the piece of history to its original condition.

Kaiser Delivers Biofuel for RIMPAC's Great Green Fleet Demo

By Sarah Burford, Military Sealift Command Pacific Public Affairs

Pearl Harbor (NNS) -- Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Henry J. Kaiser (T-AO 187), will deliver 900,000 gallons of a 50-50 blend of advanced biofuels and traditional petroleum-based fuel July 17, to the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) strike group.

The fuel delivery is part of the Navy's Great Green Fleet demonstration, which allows the Navy to test, evaluate and demonstrate the cross-platform utility and functionality of advanced biofuels in an operational setting.

This will achieve one of the five energy goals established by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus: to demonstrate a Great Green Fleet in local operations by 2012.

 Kaiser is scheduled to deliver 700,000 gallons of hydro-treated renewable diesel fuel, or HRD76, to three ships of the strike group. Kaiser will also deliver 200,000 gallons of hydro-treated renewable aviation fuel, or HRJ5, to Nimitz. Both fuels are a 50-50 blend of traditional petroleum-based fuel and biofuel comprised of a mix of waste cooking oil and algae oil.

 Using fuel hoses connected to the two ships moving at tandem at approximately 13 knots, Kaiser will transfer the HRJ5 fuel to Nimitz, and the HRD76 fuel to guided-missile destroyers USS Princeton (CG 59) and destroyers USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93) and USS Chaffee (DDG 90), during individual underway replenishments, or unreps.

The biofuel delivery is part of Kaiser's schedule of logistics support to the multinational forces participating in RIMPAC 2012. Kaiser, along with MSC dry cargo/ammunition ship USNS Matthew Perry (T-AKE 9) and MSC fleet replenishment oiler USNS Yukon (T-AO 202), will support RIMPAC throughout the nearly five weeks of the exercise that lasts through early August.

The MSC ships will deliver fuel and supplies to participating ships in a scheduled series of approximately 180 replenishments at sea.

 "This is a great opportunity for both my crew and me," said Kaiser's civil service master, Capt. Joseph Trogdlen. "MSC's mission is service to the fleet and that is what RIMPAC is all about. Being able to bring a cutting edge technology like the biofuel to the fleet is an exciting part of a very busy schedule of UNREPS that we are conducting in support of this exercise."

Held every two years, RIMPAC 2012 is a multinational maritime exercise that takes place in and around the Hawaiian Islands. This year's RIMPAC exercise is the 23rd in the series, which began as an annual exercise in 1971. RIMPAC 2012 began June 29 and is scheduled to run through Aug. 3. It features 22 nations, 40 surface ships, six submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel.
Units from Australia, Canada, Chile, France, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Russia, Singapore and the United States will participate in RIMPAC, along with military personnel from Colombia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Netherlands, Norway, Peru, Republic of Philippines, Thailand, Tonga and the United Kingdom. Participating forces will exercise a wide range of capabilities during RIMPAC, demonstrating the inherent flexibility of maritime forces.

These capabilities range from disaster relief and maritime security operations, to sea control and complex warfighting that includes amphibious operations, gunnery, missile, anti-submarine, and air defense exercises, as well as counter-piracy, explosive ordnance disposal operations, diving and salvage operations.

"This is just another example of the critical role MSC ships play in supporting significant Navy strategic priorities," said Rear Adm. Mark H. Buzby, commander, Military Sealift Command.

MSC operates approximately 110 non-combatant, civilian-crewed ships that replenish U.S. Navy ships, conduct specialized missions, strategically preposition combat cargo at sea around the world and move military cargo and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces and coalition partners.

USNS Henry J. Kaiser is currently providing logistical support for RIMPAC.

Remembering MAFFS 7: Memorial service held for crew killed in C-130 crash while fighting South Dakota wildfire

By Air Force Staff Sgt. Kyle Richardson
North Carolina National Guard

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Airmen gathered here Tuesday, joined by Air Force Gen. Raymond Johns, USAF Air Mobility commander, who led support by military leaders and Family, friends service members and community leaders and supporters gathered here to remember four airmen of the North Carolina Air National Guard’s 145th Airlift Wing who died when a modular airborne firefighting system equipped C-130 crashed July 1 while fighting a woodland fire in southwestern South Dakota.

North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue led the tributes during a memorial service for Lt. Col. Paul K. Mikeal of Mooresville, N.C., Maj. Joseph M. McCormick of Belmont, N.C., Maj. Ryan S. David of Boone, N.C., and Senior Master Sgt. Robert S. Cannon of Charlotte. Declaring that the men are heroes, she reminded the audience of about 1100 attendees, that included crews from other MAFFS partners in Cheyenne, Wyo., Colorado Springs, Colo., and Channel Islands, Calif., that they knew the risks and the rewards.

“They did it for their families. They did it for me, for you, and for the state and this nation,” Perdue said. Recognizing the valiant protection all of our service men and women have volunteered to provide, she continued saying, “Unfairly, they don't always come back. Today, we remember and honor them.”

The simple military ceremony featured airmen closest to the departed who shared their most memorable qualities. Lt Col. Jim Pearson said Mikeal “exuded excellence in everything he did.” Adding that Mikeal “inspired me to be a better aviator who lived life in the moment.”

Pearson related that his friend was passionate, with a calming spirit.

Maj. James Bodolosky said McCormick was the most honorable man, whose word was his life. Bodolosky explained that McCormick could find something positive in every situation. About his family, Bodolosky said McCormick was totally in love with his wife and thought she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. He added that he was in love with their newborn (one month old at the service) daughter long before he ever met her.

For Maj. Toshio Sameshima it was David’s positive positive spirit is what he said he’ll remember most. “You could always count on Ryan’s continuous smile and a laugh.”

With a more reverent tone he added that thinking of Major David’s character would “remind me of how I should live life - as if there were no bad days.”

All four individuals’ stories seemed connected by a common thread. They died doing what they loved. Following the service a second ceremony was held, with a military fly-over, to retire the aircraft, last known with the call sign “MAFFS-7.”

The crew and its aircraft, along with two other C-130s from the 145th AW and three dozen airmen, flew from Charlotte to Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo., Saturday, June 30, to assist with fighting forest fires in the Rocky Mountain region. The crash, the first in MAFFS history, occurred around 6:30 p.m. near Edgemont, S.D., as the crew assisted with battling what is being called the White Draw fire. The cause of the crash is unknown and under investigation. Two other airmen remain hospitalized, recovering from injuries sustained in the crash.

 Gov. Perdue presented the widows of the fallen with flags that had flown over the state capitol, embracing each one as she greeted them.

MAFFS is a joint Department of Defense and U.S. Forest Service program designed to provide additional aerial firefighting resources when commercial and private air tankers are no longer able to meet the needs of the forest service.

 According to Forest Service records, the agency has been working with the North Carolina Air National Guard on fire suppression missions since the early 1970s.

California National Guard assists with battle against Robbers wildfire

By Spc. Grant Larson
69th Public Affairs Detachment

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The California Army National Guard has been working with local and state first responders to suppress wildfires in the Placer County area.

 Aircrews of the California Army Guard are using four UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters to assist the California Department of Forest and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) by dropping thousands of gallons of water on the fire. Meanwhile, crews aboard one California Air National Guard HH-60 Pavehawk helicopter have been providing medical evacuation support.

As of July 15, 20 percent of the fire, which started July 11, has been contained and more than 2,250 acres have burned as of Sunday evening, with one home destroyed. 

California Gov. Edmund G. Brown, Jr. activated the California Guard July 13 to assist Cal Fire efforts to suppress the fire.

“The California Army National Guard brings a specialized set of skills, assets and personnel to Robbers that allows us to focus on fighting the fire,” said Army 1st Lt. Matthew Miklos, a platoon leader and pilot with  F Company, 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment (General Support).

“We’ve had a lasting relationship with Cal Fire,” said Chief Warrant Officer Robert Brockly, operations officer and senior instructor pilot. “We are at Cal Fire’s beck and call. Once we receive a call from them, we have our birds in the air in five to 10 minutes.”

 Cal Fire personnel have been appreciative of the California Guard as well. 

“The California Army National Guard Soldiers are trained very well and it feels really good that they’re focused on fulfilling the mission,” said David Ito, a Cal Fire captain and agency aviation military liaison. “They’re an outstanding resource for the citizens of California and Cal Fire.”

The helicopter crews are putting in 14-hour duty days, with eight of those hours in the sky.

The Robbers fire is hitting home for some who are helping out in the effort.

“I grew up in the hills of Placerville and worked for Auburn State Park, so I’m honored to be a part of this,” said Miklos. “It’s pretty awesome to get to help out your neighbors.”

Before the start of the fire season, the California Army National Guard and Cal Fire conducted a range of training from bucket drops to radio communications, for new and current team members, said Brockly. A requirement for pilots is 500 hours of aircraft commander time.

“The stress that’s involved in flying in combat translates into fighting fires as most pilots have been in combat at least once or twice,” said Brockly.

 “You train so much that it’s instinctive, it’s muscle memory, and that’s a good feeling,” said Miklos.

But for many of the California Guard members it simply comes back to serving.

“The Robbers fire is why we joined the Guard,” said Brockly. “It gives us the opportunity to serve our own country and state.”