Archives for: January 2012
By unitedweroll on Jan 30, 2012 | In Military News and Support
United We Roll World Tour Show
Stardust Radio www.stardustradio.com
Tuesday 1/31/12 2:00pm – 3:30pm Central (Live)
Wednesday 2/01/12 6:30pm – 8:00pm Central (Repeat)
Welcome Stardust Listeners! Thank you for joining us on United We Roll
Tuesday, the 31st day of January, 2012.
You know, I recall one day when were live on the air and an enthusiastic Veteran asked if one guest was more special than another. After having the honor of speaking with literally hundreds of our Heroes of Freedom, we must say that no one is really more special than another. Yes, there are differences like some may be more outgoing and more noticeable than others, ranks may vary. etc., but every single member contributes a necessary part in order for any mission to be completed.
No matter what a member's MOS or job is, no matter if they intend to stay for 7 years or 20 plus years, each member and their family continue to ensure that life in our country is one of rights, liberties and freedom. It is certainly proper that our duty in return is to do all we can through using our ability to vote and our freedom of speech, among other resources, to see that good and fair legislation is passed and to be active in the support of our Heroes of Freedom, their families and of our Hometown Heroes - our First Responders and their families. Together we can and we will make this country as special for our grandchildren as it has been for us and our parents.
We are extremely proud to announce that we have once again linked up with an Army unit that is preparing to deploy and we will be bringing you interviews with the members of the 3d ESC (Expeditionary Sustainment Command) until they come back home. We have placed some history about this unit in our blog and also put the link to the article in the blog on our Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/unitedweroll. Even better, our second guest for today is Col Kristin K. French, Commander of the 3d ESC, which will soon go through a name change as they set up on the other side of the globe.
As we hear about the incredible efforts that deployed members make at TC Manas to reach out to the community and as we hear about the important impact that Col French's unit will have on those with whom they will serve on deployment, please let us think about the many ways that we can support those who protect us, support their families and what we can do to come closer together in our communities, perhaps through care package parties, BBQ's for the family members at home and more.
Our show will end just about 3:30pm Central. Remember, if you are not able to stay with us through the afternoon, this show will repeat again tomorrow evening - that is Wednesday, Feb 1st at 6:30pm Central.
(2:08pm) Our first interview comes to us from Transit Center Manas in the Kyrgyz Republic as we visit with Capt. Lysa Stern, who is on deployment with the Theater Security Cooperation Division of the 376th AEW (Air Expeditionary Wing). As the Chief of the Social Cultural Branch at Manas, Capt Stern's days are very busy with coordinating new events to include both members from the base and from the local community to participate in sports to musicals, educational meetings and more. She also performs a lot of humanitarian assistance projects off base. You can clearly hear the enthusiasm for her job in Capt Stern's voice and we again learn a lot from this visit.
(2:54pm) Our next visit comes hand in hand with our announcement that we have established a link with the 3d ESC (Expeditionary Sustainment Command) which is in training for a deployment to Afghanistan coming up in the very near future. We were able to spend some much appreciated time on the phone with Col Kristin K French, Commander of the 3d ESC and we share that conversation with you today. Col French provides us with an overview of the unit's history and an excellent explanation of the mission that the members will carry out once they are boots on the ground in Afghanistan and until they come home. As you will hear, Col French has already been hard at work with planning meetings both stateside and in Afghanistan and we look forward to bringing you more news and interviews from this highly decorated officer and the men and women of the 3d ESC.
Folks, once again we are very grateful to have the opportunity to bring you these beautiful visits with our Heroes of Freedom today and every Tuesday. We hope that you have enjoyed them and will join us again next week, Tuesday, February 7th for more interviews and news from our Heroes of Freedom.
As always, our hearts and our prayers go out to all of our military members and Veterans, our first responders and to all their families, who also serve.
Of course, we thank all of you, our Stardust Listeners, for tuning in to United We Roll and to all of our programs here at Stardust Radio today and over the past ten years.
MAY GOD BLESS YOU ALL & MAY GOD BLESS AMERICA!
JOIN US FOR UPCOMING INTERVIEWS WITH THE
US ARMY 3d ESC (EXPEDITIONARY SUSTAINMENT COMMAND) UNIT
AS DEPLOYMENT PREP WINDS UP AND
MEMBERS HEAD TO AFGHANISTAN
HEAR INTERVIEW WITH COL KRISTIN K FRENCH,
COMMANDER OF 3d ESC
TUESDAY 1/31 AND REPEAT WEDNESDAY 2/1
The 3d Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) derives its lineage from the 3d Logistical Command, which was activated in Japan on 19 September 1950 for service in Korea.
The date: September 15, 1950. The place: Inchon, Korea. North Korean troops force American and South Korean ground forces into a small area on the Pusan peninsula in southeast Korea. To break through, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, commander in chief of the United Nations Forces, devises a plan to surround the North Koreans. He stages an amphibious landing at the enemy's rear at Inchon near Seoul. Thus follows the fall of the harbor city where Allied forces dig in and push the North Koreans back across the 38th parallel and up the peninsula in mere weeks.
Meanwhile, the 3d Logistical Command arrived in Korea just 11 days after MacArthur's invasion and was assigned to X Corps. The command, just activated on September 19 under the Japan Logistical Command which was supporting the Eighth Army in Korea as the Far East Command requisitioning agency, assumed the task to unload, receive, store, and forward supplies for the X Corps. It established an initial supply level of 15 days and provided anti-aircraft and beach defense of the Inchon area. The concept of using a logistical command was a new one evolving from experiences during WWII. Korea marked the first use in combat of a logistical command organized under an approved table of organization. The attached corps combat service support structure was capable of providing high quality, timely support to units and included ordnance, quartermaster, transportation and medical units.
Prior to its inactivation on March 20, 1953, the 3d Logistical Command participated in eight Korean campaigns including the first United Nations Counter Offensive and three Korean winter campaigns. The command received two Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citations for its meritorious service during the conflict.
Reactivated After the experience in Korea, the consensus of those concerned seemed to be that the logistical command concept was sound. The great advantage of such an organization was that it represented an approved voucher against which a commander could set up a logistics support organization. The command was reactivated on June 15, 1958, in France and supported the U.S. Army Europe Communications Zone. In the spring of 1967, the unit left France and moved to Worms, Germany. On June 2, 1969, the command was again inactivated, with the majority of the soldiers and units joining existing support units already in Germany. Before the corps support command - or COSCOM - concept was adopted in the United States Army in Europe, V and VII corps received combat service support from support brigades. When Seventh Army was reduced to token representation, V and VII corps became separate commands subordinate to USAREUR. To operate independently, each required a corps support command. The second and third support brigades were assigned to V and VII corps, respectively, and became COSCOMs.
On June 25, 1969, V COSCOM was released from seventh army support command and was assigned to V Corps. V COSCOM was redesignated on September 23, 1974, as the 3rd Support Command (Corps), with its headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany. The designation "(Corps)" was dropped in late 1979. During the Cold War, the 3d Support Command stood in defense of Western Europe along with other forces. During the annual REFORGER (Return of Forces to Germany) exercises the command sustained V Corps during intensive tactical operations and deployment and redeployment operations. A typical REFORGER found the command supporting well over 70,000 troops and 20,000 vehicles during some of the most arduous winter conditions in Europe.
On November 3, 1976, the distinctive badge for the 3d COSCOM was authorized. The Korean taeguk within the octagon shape represents the unit's eight campaigns in the Korean War. The red, white, and blue interlaced chevronels symbolize the strong support offered by the command; three chevronels further distinguish the designation of the 3d Corps Support Command. Buff (gold) and scarlet are colors used for support units.
3d COSCOM adapted its official motto "Sustaining the Line!" in the fall of 1977. The command sponsored a contest for soldiers to provide a motto for the unit crest. In a meeting in early October, a dozen possible mottoes from soldiers across the command were selected. Warrant Officer Richard Jones of the 881st Maintenance Battalion received a $25 savings bond for his contribution of "Sustaining the Line!"
Nijmegen road march In 1985 the 3d Support Command headquarters moved from Frankfurt to Wiesbaden, West Germany, after being next to V Corps HQs in Frankfurt for 16 years. In 1986 the command was selected to sponsor USAREUR's involvement in the 70th annual Nijmegen Road March in Holland. The command handled its duties in such an outstanding manner that the CG, USAREUR and 7th Army, established the command as the permanent sponsor of the international road march. The command was redesignated as the 3d Corps Support Command in October 1988. More recently, 3d COSCOM has been a key participant in several critical support missions throughout the world. Besides playing a major role in the deployment and redeployment of USAREUR soldiers in support of operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, over 1,600 soldiers deployed from the 3d COSCOM to southwest Asia, including soldiers from the 181 Transportation Battalion and the 16th Corps Support Group.
Elements of the 3d COSCOM deployed to Zagreb, Croatia, in support of Operation Provide Promise from November 1992 to November 1993. Aviation support soldiers were deployed to Somalia from December 1992 through May 1993 in support of Operation Restore Hope. From July through December 1993, 3d COSCOM soldiers deployed to southwest Asia in support of Operation Provide Cover. Soldiers from every unit in the COSCOM deployed to the Balkans in 1999 in support of Task Force Hawk and Falcon, participating in the NATO-led air campaign in Kosovo to bring stability and peace to the region.
The Global War on Terror
In February 2003, the 3d COSCOM headquarters deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Command assumed control of over more than 17,000 Soldiers providing logistical support to US and Coalition forces. COSCOM units participated in every OIF rotation since 2003 as well as deploying to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The headquarters deployed a second time to Iraq in 2005 assuming control of over 20,000 Soldiers while continuing to provide sustainment and distribution to Coalition Forces. Upon returning to Germany in September 2006, 3d COSCOM personnel began preparations to relocate the unit colors for the sixth time in its history. The unit moved to Fort Knox, Kentucky in June 2007 and on September 16, 2007 the 3d COSCOM transformed into the 3d Sustainment Command (Expeditionary). After relocating to Fort Knox, the unit received personnel, equipment, and the mission to redeploy for a third-time to Iraq. From June 20, 2008 until August 7, 2009, the 3d Sustainment Command assumed responsibility for sustainment and distribution support for all Coalition Forces in the Iraqi Theater of Operations. The command provided logistical support and base life support to over 300,000 soldiers and civilians across Iraq every day, while working with the Iraqi Army to improve their logistics capability and make them self-sufficient.
Operation Unified Response - Haiti
Soldiers from the 3d ESC began deploying to Haiti within a week of the earthquake that devastated the country in January 2010. From January 19 to February 3, the 3d ESCA formation grew to a Joint Logistics Command supporting over 18,000 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, Civilians, USAID, NGO, DVO and other governmental agencies. Before redeploying on March 9, 2010, the 3d ESC provided humanitarian aid and medical support to the Haitian people as well as transportation, field services and sustainment for U.S. forces deployed in and around Haiti.
In garrison, the 3d Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) provides command and control (Training and Readiness Authority - TRA) of two sustainment brigades and one transportation company as well as administrative support for an engineer battalion. The 3d ESC also mentors other ESCs and sustainment brigades as they seek to improve their capabilities and/or prepare to deploy. Meanwhile, the headquarters is constantly working to prepare itself to deploy and provide command and control, sustainment and distribution management anywhere, in any environment, against any adversary.
"Sustaining the Line!"
Valentines for Vets
A complimentary, “Valentines for Vets,” concert will be at 7 p.m., February 14 at the Riverside Casino and Golf Resort in Riverside, Iowa featuring country music artist Lorrie Morgan. This concert is sponsored by the Iowa City VA Health Care System and Help Hospitalized Veterans.
Veterans can reserve their complimentary tickets by sending an email to email@example.com or calling (319) 339-7155.
The tickets are complimentary because our Veterans have already paid the price.
Again, the tickets are complimentary and can be reserved by calling (319) 339-7155 or emailing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Iowa City VA HCS staff
Learn more about the many services available through
the website at www.Kansasworks.com
Shoutouts For Our Troops
If your organization would like to schedule a
date and time to record shoutouts for our troops,
please email us at email@example.com
... "We Thank You" ...
Stardust Radio Network Inc
Sundays 6pm CT - Rick Townsend brings you Firebase Network with an hour of Veteran issues and discussions. Join Rick and his guests each week and call in with your comments. The phone number during the show is 877-213-4329.
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Three More American Heroes Fall in Line of Duty - Let Us All Stop To Remember Them And Their Families
By unitedweroll on Jan 28, 2012 | In Military News and Support
America has lost three of the very special men and women who step forward to protect our country and our freedom. These three Heroes worked in the especially dangerous field of EOD control, but it was an IED striking their vehicle that took them away from us and their families. Please let us all take time out to pray for their everlasting peace, for God to watch over their families and help to replace grief with loving memories and may we all commit these Heroes' names to our hearts and include them in our daily prayers.
SrA Bryan Bell, TSgt Matthew Schwartz and A1C Matthew Seidler will NEVER be forgotten.
Thank you for our freedom!
Air Force Senior Airman Bryan R. Bell
Died January 5, 2012 Serving During Operation Enduring Freedom
23, of Erie, Pa.; assigned to 2nd Civil Engineer Squadron, Barksdale Air Force Base, La.; died Jan. 5 in Shir Gazay, Helmand province, Afghanistan, when his vehicle struck an improvised explosive device. Also killed were Tech. Sgt. Matthew S. Schwartz and Airman 1st Class Matthew R. Seidler.
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew S. Schwartz
Died January 5, 2012 Serving During Operation Enduring Freedom
34, of Traverse City, Mich.; assigned to 90th Civil Engineer Squadron, F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo.; died Jan. 5 in Shir Gazay, Helmand province, Afghanistan, when his vehicle struck an improvised explosive device. Also killed were Senior Airman Bryan R. Bell and Airman 1st Class Matthew R. Seidler.
Air Force Airman 1st Class Matthew R. Seidler
Died January 5, 2012 Serving During Operation Enduring Freedom
24, of Westminster, Md.; assigned to 21st Civil Engineer Squadron, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.; died Jan. 5 in Shir Gazay, Helmand province, Afghanistan, when his vehicle struck an improvised explosive device. Also killed were Senior Airman Bryan R. Bell and Tech. Sgt. Matthew S. Schwartz.
Pentagon: IED killed 3 airmen in Afghanistan
The Defense Department on Jan. 7 formally announced the deaths earlier this week of three airmen in Afghanistan, saying they were killed in an improvised explosive device explosion.
The airmen died Jan. 5 in Shir Ghazay district, Helmand province, when their vehicle was struck by an IED, the Defense Department said.
The fallen airmen are:
• Senior Airman Bryan R. Bell, 23, of Erie, Pa. Bell was assigned to the 2nd Civil Engineer Squadron, Barksdale Air Force Base, La. Previous reports state Bell enlisted in 2006 and had been in Afghanistan for two months.
• Tech. Sgt. Matthew S. Schwartz, 34, of Traverse City, Mich. Schwartz was assigned to the 90th Civil Engineer Squadron, F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo.
• Airman 1st Class Matthew R. Seidler, 24, of Westminster, Md. Seidler was assigned to the 21st Civil Engineer Squadron, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.
3 EOD techs remembered for altruism, humor
By Jeff Schogol
Richard Bell remembers how his son explained why he became an Air Force explosive ordnance technician: “Dad, I don’t want to kill people, I want to save people.”
Originally, the younger Bell wanted to be a firefighter, like his father, but he found the opportunity to defuse bombs appealed to him, Richard Bell said.
“The last phone conversation I had with him several weeks ago, he was pretty elated that they had taken care of an IED,” the elder Bell said. “So it’s comforting for me to know that he was doing what he wanted to do, and he always told me that.”
The two wouldn’t get a chance to speak again. Senior Airman Bryan R. Bell, 23, was killed Jan. 5 in Afghanistan along with two other EOD technicians: Tech. Sgt. Matthew S. Schwartz, 34; and Airman 1st Class Matthew R. Seidler, 24. They were killed by a roadside bomb in Shir Ghazay, Helmand province.
Standing more than 6 feet tall and with massive arms, Bryan Bell was a “gentle giant” whose motto was to “live today like there’s no tomorrow,” his father recalled.
“He rarely didn’t smile,” Richard Bell said. “When he came into a room, he lit up a room. The charisma that he had was amazing. I’ve never met anybody with a better outlook towards life. I don’t think I’ve ever met anybody that had more charisma than him.”
In addition to clearing bombs overseas, Bryan Bell worked with the Secret Service on at least four occasions to search for possible explosive devices during President Obama’s domestic trips, his father said.
On one such trip, Obama acknowledged his son.
“I remember him telling me in a phone conversation, he says, ‘I just stood by and seen the president walk by and he nodded his head at me … the president knew I was alive,’ ” the elder Bell said.
Barksdale holds memorial for fallen airman
By John Andrew Prime
The (Shreveport, La.) Times
Chapel 2, the more modern and austere of the two centers of worship at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., was the setting Jan. 20 of a memorial for the bomber base's latest fallen fighter.
A private memorial for Senior Airman Bryan R. Bell, 23, a Pennsylvania native and Louisiana Tech graduate, was closed to media at the family's request.
Bell was buried Jan. 16 with full military honors at Wintergreen Gorge Cemetery in Erie County, Pa.
Bell, from Harborcreek Township, Pa., died in a Jan. 5 improvised explosive device attack on his military vehicle in Shir Ghazay in Helmand province, Afghanistan. Also killed were Tech. Sgt. Matthew S. Schwartz, 34, of Traverse City, Mich.; and Airman 1st Class Matthew R. Seidler, 24, of Westminster, Md.
An athlete and a volunteer fireman in Harborcreek and the surrounding area since age 14, he had risen to the rank of senior fireman when he joined the Air Force in 2007 and chose to work in the dangerous but vital field of explosive-ordnance disposal.
A veteran of the Iraq war, he started his second war tour in October and had earned a Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart.
Bell's survivors include his widow, Alaina Hart Bell; a sister who also serves in the Air Force, Airman 1st Class Candice Bell, and stepsiblings; his parents and stepparents; and his grandparents.
By unitedweroll on Jan 28, 2012 | In Military News and Support
Five Korean War Heroes Reach Home Soil This Month.
Would it be too much for our mainstream media to acknowledge the homecoming of these
Heroes of Freedom who have been away for far too long?
May these Heroes rest in peace and may their families feel the comfort of knowing they
are finally home.
We wish the Recovery Mission success in bringing more of our MIA Veterans home from
Korea as they begin this Spring.
Recovery Mission to Begin This Spring in North Korea
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 27, 2012 - Members of the Joint Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Accounting Command are preparing for their first mission to North Korea in seven years to search for remains of missing U.S. Korean War veterans, a defense official reported.
The mission, expected to begin this spring, will bring together U.S. and North Korean military members for the humanitarian mission, said Air Force Maj. Carie Parker, a spokeswoman for the Defense Department's POW/Missing Personnel Office here.
U.S. teams will work in two areas in North Korea: Unsan County, about 60 miles north of Pyongyang, and near the Chosin/Jangjin Reservoir, where more than 2,000 soldiers and Marines are believed to be missing, Parker said.
Of approximately 83,000 Americans missing from all conflicts, 7,967 are from the Korean War, she said. Of those MIAs, 5,500 are believed to be in North Korea.
U.S. specialists from the Joint POW/MIA Command had conducted operations in North Korea for 10 years, recovering remains believed to be more than 225 servicemen since 1996. However, the United States halted those operations in 2005 due to increased tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
U.S. and North Korean officials agreed following three days of talks in Bangkok last October to resume the recovery missions, Parker said.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for POW/MIA Affairs Robert J. Newberry led the U.S. negotiating team, which included representatives from DOD, the State Department, U.S. Pacific Command and United Nations Command-Korea.
Their agreement with the North Koreans includes details on logistics and other issues to ensure effective, safe operations for U.S. recovery teams operating in North Korea, Parker said.
Based on this plan, North Korean soldiers are expected to begin preparing the two sites that will serve as base camps for the operations.
A small advanced team from JPAC will then travel to North Korea to assess the sites, evaluate the conditions and determine what other preparations are needed before a full recovery team deploys there, probably in the late spring timeframe.
The recovery is considered a humanitarian mission, and North Korean military will assist with logistics, support and security, Parker said.
"They understand the importance of this mission," she said, emphasizing that the mission is not tied to any other issues between the two countries.
The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command has the sole mission of achieving the fullest possible accounting of all Americans missing as a result of the nation's past conflicts, command officials explained.
In support of that mission, the command sends teams that include forensic anthropologists, forensic archeologists and scientific directors to potential crash and burial sites around the world.
Once remains or other personal artifacts such as dogtags are repatriated to JPAC's headquarters in Hawaii, experts at the command's Central Identification Laboratory -- the world's largest forensic anthropology lab -- use the most advanced science available to match them to a specific missing service member. Among the tools they use is mitochondrial DNA, which includes unique signatures from the maternal line and helps the JPAC staff make identifications once not considered possible.
These capabilities, plus support provided by the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory in Rockville, Md., has enabled JPAC to identify 94 missing service members from Vietnam, Korea and World War II since January 2011, Parker reported.
Of those, 44 were from the Korean War, including five who were accounted for this month.
One, to be buried today with full military honors in Somerton, Pa., is Army Pfc. George A. Porter. The 21-year-old Philadelphian went missing Feb. 11, 1950, when he and his Battery B, 15th Field Artillery Battalion comrades were supporting South Korean forces in a major offensive near Hoengsong, South Korea.
Porter and more than 100 men were taken prisoner when Chinese forces attacked in what has become known as the Hoengsong Massacre. He was never accounted for following the war, officials said.
Between 1991 and 1994, North Korea gave the United States 208 boxes of human remains believed to be those of 200 and 400 U.S. servicemen. North Korean documents, turned over with some of the boxes, indicated that some of the remains were recovered in Suan County. That, officials said, was the location of the Suan Mining and Bean camps, where Porter was believed to have been held.
A metal identification tag bearing Porter's name was included among the remains, they reported.
Scientists from the JPAC and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used forensic identification tools, circumstantial evidence and mitochondrial DNA that matched that of Porter's sister and nephew to make an official identification. DOD announced the identification Jan. 23.
Other previously missing Korean War veterans accounted for this month were:
Army Pfc. Frank P. Jennings. He was lost near Jeon-Gog, South Korea, on April 25, 1951, while serving with E Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment. Jennings was accounted for on Jan. 18.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Edris A. Viers. He was lost near Pongam-ni, South Korea, on Aug. 12, 1950, while serving with Battery A, 555th Field Artillery Battalion, 5th Regimental Combat Team. Viers was accounted for on Jan. 17.
Army Cpl. William R. Sluss. He was serving with Service Battery, 38th Field Artillery Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, near Kuni-ri, North Korea, when he was captured by enemy forces in late November 1950. Sluss died at POW Camp 5 in April 1951 and was accounted for on Jan. 17.
• Army Cpl. Chester J. Roper. The Battery A, 503rd Field Artillery Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, soldier was captured by enemy forces on Dec. 1, 1950, near Somindong, North Korea, and died in early 1951 in POW Camp 5 at Pyoktong. He was accounted for on Jan. 4.
Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office
Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command
By unitedweroll on Jan 28, 2012 | In Military News and Support
Must See Video with Chuck Woolery Talking About Budget Cuts
This YouTube video is just too good not to see -
By the way, there are some other Chuck Woolery videos with more comments on our government and more.
By unitedweroll on Jan 26, 2012 | In Military News and Support
Apparently avalanches are not too rare in this part of the world and our Heroes of Freedom have come to the
rescue more than once or twice! Photos can be seen at the original site of this article (below) or on our
Facebook page at www.facebook.com/unitedweroll.
Is it no wonder we are so proud of the many, many ways our military members reach out to others
as they serve across the globe?
Airmen assist victims of avalanche, downed aircraft in Afghanistan
Posted 1/26/2012 Updated 1/26/2012
by Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Larlee
438th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
1/26/2012 - KABUL, Afghanistan (AFNS) -- A team of U.S. Air Force and Afghan air force aircrew and support personnel snapped into action Jan. 24 to provide life-saving support to 31 Afghan victims of an avalanche.
Additionally, the team supported an Afghan aircrew that had downed their aircraft in an effort to rescue the victims of the avalanche in Northern Afghanistan near the city of Fayzabad.
U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Chas Tacheny, the 438th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group deputy commander, was in charge of putting a team together for the mission. He said his first priority was to ensure that this mission didn't add additional victims to the situation.
"First thing you think about in Afghanistan is the ability to survive," Tacheny said. "You don't want to do any more damage to your crew or equipment."
The Portland, Ore., native said he made sure to include medical and force protection personnel in the team of people spread out among two Mi-17 helicopters. He also wanted to ensure that everyone was properly equipped with cold weather gear because temperatures at the site were minus 15 degrees Fahrenheit.
The rescue team showed off some flexibility in performing the mission. They were originally assembled to perform an air safety inspection of the crash site, but about an hour before their arrival, they learned of the avalanche victims, which added a humanitarian wrinkle to the mission. Airlift of all victims would require two flights. The aircrew of the downed aircraft communicated with the new rescue team to provide triage information about which victims needed to be on the first flight. They also combined forces with the local villagers to shovel out a landing zone for the rescue team.
"This aircraft recovery mission changed very quickly from a safety mission to a humanitarian effort," said Lt. Col. John Conmy, the 438th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron commander and a Mi-17 pilot who participated in the mission. "The landing zone was much smaller than we anticipated. Not too many teams could've pulled this off."
Tacheny said the biggest challenge was getting to the site safely. The site was at an elevation of 9,000 feet and tucked into the difficult-to-traverse Hindu Kush mountain range. The Afghan air force members were an integral part of the navigation as they helped direct pilots to the rescue site.
"The Afghans know this country and the terrain well," Tacheny said. "They did a great job of leading us through the mountains to where we needed to go."
The Afghans also sent safety officers and maintenance personnel on the mission. They were eager for a chance to pitch in to help their countrymen.
"It makes us happy to help others who are facing danger," said Afghan air force Maj. Farid Samin. "The crews of all the aircraft worked together as a team to make this happen."
Even with expert direction, traveling safely to the site was no easy task, said Capt. Mark Morales, an instructor pilot with the 438th AEAS. Morales piloted one of the two helicopters.
He said that the combination of the high altitude and a small landing zone required the best efforts of everyone involved in the mission. The landing was complicated by the snow, which was up to five feet deep in some areas, obscuring the landing zone.
"The mission presented very challenging flight conditions and to see our crew execute it effectively makes me extremely proud of them," Morales said. "It was not just the aircrew, though; a lot of people came together to help us get up the mountain and help save (the victims) from additional suffering."
Master Sgt. Chris Banks, a ground medic with the 438th Air Expeditionary Wing, played a vital part in the mission as well. As the sole medic, he was in charge of making sure all 31 victims of the avalanche and the aircrew of the downed Mi-17 received urgent care.
"That was probably the most intense mission I have ever worked on," Banks said. "When you are working with that many patients, it really gets your adrenaline running."
During the approximately 15-minute trip back to Faizabad, the sergeant, a native of Orlando, Fla., hustled from patient to patient swapping out wet dressings for new dry ones and treating wounds as best he could. He said if the rescue mission had come any later, they may not have been able to save all of the victims.
"It was the worst case of frostbite I have ever seen in person," he said. "I have only seen cases that severe in pictures."
Morales, a native of San Antonio, Texas, said it was a true team effort. In addition to the Afghans providing guidance through the mountains, a German provincial reconstruction team provided timely reconnaissance pictures that provided valuable information for the mission.
"Teamwork and communication between the U.S., the Germans and the Afghans was the lynchpin for this whole operation," Morales said. "Without the German intelligence, we would have been burning precious time and fuel searching for the crash site and village."
Tacheny said he regrets not being able to do a safety ground inspection of the downed aircraft, but he said the most important part of the mission -- saving lives -- was a success.
"The humanitarian piece of the mission was an absolute homerun," he said. "I'm extremely proud of the team. They did an admirable job."