Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Guard Salutes Fallen New York City Apartment Fire Hero

By Army Col. Richard Goldenberg, New York National Guard

NEW YORK CITY, Feb. 21, 2018 — Army National Guard leaders recently honored a New York Army National Guardsman who died while rescuing his neighbors during the deadliest fire here in more than 25 years.

Army Pfc. Emmanuel Mensah is credited with saving four lives as he returned to the building three times before he was overcome by smoke. Including Mensah, 13 people died in the blaze.

Mensah posthumously received two medals for valor during a ceremony for the family at Fordham University here Feb. 16, including the Army's highest award for bravery outside of a combat zone.

Army Lt. Gen. Thomas J. Kadavy, director of the Army National Guard, presented the Soldier's Medal to Kwabena Mensah, Emmanuel’s father.

‘Unselfish Soldier’

"Difficult though it may be," Kadavy said, "please think of this ceremony as an opportunity not to mourn, but to celebrate Private First Class Mensah, an unselfish soldier of incredible bravery, who sacrificed his own life to save several others, and while attempting to save more."

Army Secretary Mark T. Esper approved the posthumous award of the Soldier's Medal for Mensah Jan. 1.

"The Soldier's Medal is an award that no one sets out to receive," Kadavy said. "If any of us could change the circumstances that bring us together this morning, we certainly would do so."

Fire department investigators say the blaze was started by a young boy playing with a gas stove. According to investigators, the fire spread after the child's family escaped the apartment and neglected to close the apartment door behind them.

"After quickly escaping the fire, Private First Class Mensah could have remained safely outside," Kadavy said. "But, knowing that residents were still inside, it was not in his nature to stand by without doing whatever he could to help them escape the deadly inferno that was raging through their homes.

When firefighters were able to enter the building, they discovered Mensah's remains and believe that based on the location of the body, he was still seeking to rescue people, according to statements provided to New York Army National Guard officials.

"Private First Class Mensah's heroic actions are in keeping with the highest traditions of military heroism and selfless service and reflect great credit upon himself, the New York Army National Guard and the United States Army," the award citation says.

"Today is about the recognition of a family's sacrifice and the military recognizing their own," said Army Command Sgt. Maj. Javier Lugo of the 104th Military Police Battalion, the higher headquarters of Mensah's intended unit. "This is the highest non-combat award given by the U.S. Army for going above and beyond the call of duty to save another person's life."

Lifelong Dream to Serve

Mensah’s dream was to join the military, the fallen soldier’s father said.

"He fulfilled his dream, what he wanted to do," Kwabena Mensah said of his son. "He was proud of being [in] the American military. He was so proud of that."

Richard White, New York State's deputy secretary for public safety, presented the New York State Medal for Valor to the Mensah family on behalf of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

Mensah’s family immigrated to the United States from Ghana and Mensah was a permanent legal resident. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen on Sept. 21, 2017.

"He came to exemplify what is best about his adopted country and Ghana, his country of origin," White said. "What that means is that when others would run from the inferno, our Pfc. Mensah ran into the blaze."

"It's given we, the family members, some peace and some joy and hope that even though we have lost him physically, his memory still lives on," Gloria Addo Nuamah, Mensah’s sister, said. "People will remember him for this bravery and that's what this ceremony stands for me."

Mensah, who enlisted in the New York Army National Guard in December 2016, had recently completed training to serve as a wheeled vehicle mechanic.

At the time of his death, he was still assigned to Alpha Company of the New York Army National Guard's Recruiting and Retention Battalion, but was slated to begin drilling with the New York Army National Guard's 107th Military Police Company at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn in January.

Mensah was buried with full military honors Feb. 17, at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.
"Every soldier has a story," Lugo said, "This just goes to show how all of our soldiers are special."

Army Reserve Answers First Call for Disaster Relief in American Samoa

By 9th Mission Support Command

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa, Feb. 21, 2018 — When disaster strikes at home, who answers the call to clean up and rebuild? After a destructive storm struck here recently, Army Reserve forces took immediate action.

In concert and coordination with various federal, state, local, interagency, and non-governmental organization partners, Army Reservists transported Federal Emergency Management Agency and American Red Cross relief supplies and equipment to support their fellow citizens following the destructive path of Tropical Cyclone Gita across the island of American Samoa Feb 11-16.

More than 300 U.S. Army Reservists reside and work in American Samoa.

Helping Americans

"We are part of this community. We are members of the community and it is ours to protect," said Army Lt. Col. Clinton C. Seybold, commander of the American Samoa Detachment. "We are very proud to be here to help the American people and the people of American Samoa are American people."

The Army Reserve is using its Pago Pago facility as a staging base for federal agencies to operate out of as they conduct their recovery operations.

"It's very convenient for federal assets," Seybold said. "It has been designated the federal team staging facility for the military personnel part of the federal response they come check in with us and if need be we house them."

An emergency declaration was made by Samoa Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga and approved by President Donald J. Trump, which allowed aid to be distributed to the island territory.

As the island rebuilds, American Samoa's Army Reservists will continue to work providing capabilities that support their communities, families, and neighbors.
"We are here to answer the call wherever we are needed," Seybold said. "It just so happened this time we were needed at home."

Face of Defense: Airman's Innovation Benefits Relief Efforts

By By Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Hicks, 621st Contingency Response Wing

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif., Feb. 21, 2018 — In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, when the Air Force’s 621st Contingency Response Wing deployed more than 150 airmen throughout Puerto Rico and the surrounding islands, one airman in particular employed an innovative way to facilitate support to the relief mission.

Air Force 1st Lt. David Webb, an intelligence officer with the 821st Contingency Response Support Squadron here, identified a critical role open-source data could play to help expedite the hurricane relief efforts to more than 3.5 million civilians in the wake of the most recent hurricanes.

As one of the first intelligence officers to deploy to Puerto Rico in support of the relief efforts, Webb had the idea to use publicly available information to help deliver life-saving supplies to where they were needed most. He developed a common operating picture using Google Earth to gather background information that could be employed as a navigation tool.

“Through the use of publically available information, as well as working with sister services and other DoD support agencies, I was able to gather essential information, including disaster-ridden locations, accessibility to these locations, and needs of the local area for the placement of distribution points and regional staging areas for relief supplies,” Webb said.

Building a Shared Resource

Once Webb was able to pinpoint hard-to-reach areas, he used the tool to add additional information, such as grid coordinates, sources of information, contact information and needs of the area. He provided this information directly to the senior airfield authority.

“The COP was also used to provide the SAA, contingency response element commander and other [leaders with] situational awareness updates, enable force protection of the airfield and shape leadership decisions,” Webb said. “The COP was also used by the Army, Marines, [U.S.] Fish and Wildlife [Service], American Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.”

In essence, the common operating picture provided teams on the ground in Puerto Rico with a centralized hub of information to coordinate logistical support.

“The COP was an amazing tool,” said Air Force Lt. Col. John Berger, the 921st Contingency Response Squadron’s director of operations. “It allowed us to see the entire environment and plot the needs of a community [in] real time, which enabled us to get supplies to the correct villages faster.”

The common operating picture was also used by follow-on forces to ensure continuity of support to the Puerto Rico relief efforts.

As a direct result of Webb’s innovation, Defense Department aircrews and federal agencies were able to deliver 8.7 million pounds of aid across the island.


Webb was selected to present his innovative product during the National Reconnaissance Office Air Force A2 Industry Symposium. During this conference, he was able to share his ideas and connect with industry leaders to help support future mobility missions.

“Webb is consummate professional,” said Air Force Maj. William Taylor, the 321st Air Mobility Operations Squadron’s senior intelligence officer. “He’s Intelligent and dedicated to his craft. His inquisitive disposition and knack for problem-solving made him a shoo-in for the mission, and it paid off."

Webb was recognized for his support to the hurricane relief operations and received a challenge coin from Air Force Lt. Gen. Veralinn Jamieson, the deputy chief of staff for Air Force intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.
“Innovation is a critical part of Air Force history and will be a critical part of the Air Force future,” Berger said. “Airmen tend to think outside the box and tackle problems in new and innovative ways. In the [contingency response wing], our mission is extremely dynamic, ranging from humanitarian relief to combat operations, so we require people who can find new ways to make the team more efficient and effective.”