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Commentary: Don’t wait to obtain crucial documents

I learned these past months that having advanced medical directives and other documents make a family emergency more manageable. It is one less issue to fix when emergencies arise.

I remembered that someone called them advanced directives during an event to provide them for families here at the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center. My First Sergeant announced it many months ago in an email. It was easy to shrug them off – powers of attorney, living wills, wills, health care proxies, and a plan.

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AF’s last serving reciprocating engine flight engineer retires

The Air Force’s last serving reciprocating engine flight engineer took his final flight here today at the air base he enlisted at more than 41 years ago.

Chief Master Sgt. Michael Reinert retired from military service at Rosecrans Air National Guard Base Sept. 6 amongst the aviators he served and near the aircraft that he helped fly.

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Guard nerve centers prove key to inaugural, national missions [repost]

NOTE: This story, “Guard nerve centers prove key to inaugural, national missions,” first published January 2009.

By Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith
National Guard Bureau

ARLINGTON, Va. — When National Guard soldiers and airmen show up for the thousands of missions they perform, they know they’re part of the right unit, in the right place, at the right moment. But, getting them to a mission does not happen by chance.

That’s partly because the joint staff at the National Guard Bureau, along with the Army and Air Guard’s readiness centers work behind the scenes with the states and territories to put the Guard’s best foot forward.

The National Guard’s support to the current presidential inauguration is no different, but its footprint is nearly four times larger than any in previous inaugurations.

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Guard Civil Support Team brings unique capability to exercise

By Tech. Sgt. Mike R. Smith | National Guard Bureau

FORT LEWIS, Wash. – In a training exercise that involved a suspected improvised explosive device releasing an unknown poisonous gas, the Washington National Guard’s 10th Weapons of Mass Destruction-Civil Support Team (CST) responded to the mock danger area May 2.

Their actions were part of a larger, national exercise hosted by the Department of Homeland Security called “National Level Exercise 2008” (NLE-08).

The multi-state venue joined federal, state and local responders May 1-8 in east and west coast training scenarios, which tested their ability to react to domestic emergencies.

Guardmembers here trained at the 52-building urban training center called “Leschi Town” on Fort Lewis. The comparative ghost town is an active-duty Army property on the southern end of the base’s 86,000 acres. Normally, it prepares combat Soldiers for military operations in urban terrain. Here, responders used it in NLE-08 to simulate downtown Seattle.

“Primarily for the CST, this isn’t anything above and beyond what they normally do, as far as the hazard and the detection of it,” said Jeff Taylor, U.S. Army North evaluator.

Taylor and a U.S. Army North team evaluated the 10th CST to see if the team’s response met a multitude of regulations and standards.

Civil Support Teams augment local and regional response capabilities in events known or suspected to involve the use of chemical, biological or radiological agents. Currently, there is at least one Guard CST in each U.S. state and territory.

“We are kind of considered second responders; with the local authorities being first responders,” said Capt. Matt James, CST operations officer.

James explained that when a CST arrives on the scene, they work for the local incident commander and bring him a unique capability to analyze suspected hazardous agents on site.

“We make a large effort to get to know many of those local authorities throughout the state as possible,” said James.

“One of the things that they are able to gain here is working with additional state and federal forces as well as civil authorities,” said Taylor. “It’s more of the concept of the joint operation with the multiple agencies involved and how they would work with them in a real event.”

On their arrival at the exercise, the CST immediately set up their operation area. They readied their medical truck, analysis lab truck and communication equipment. They put up a decontamination tent and an operations tent.

A two-member survey team carefully checked and donned “Saratoga” chemical suits and self-contained breathing systems to enter the mock chemical hazard area evaluators had laid out for them.

The survey team then combed through Leschi Town looking for hazardous agents with their detectors and radioed in information pertinent to responders including the location of mock civilians needing medical attention and extraction. Exercise officials reported 77 mock deaths in this scenario with more than 1,800 injured.

James said such exercises test the team’s readiness to respond to actual emergencies, including actions on-site like collecting information, analyzing, conducting operations and working with the community.

“They are all things we need to continually rehearse to stay proficient,” he said.

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Maine Air Guard peddles Air Force Week from town to town

PORTLAND, Maine (AFPN) — After pedaling their bicycles along 170 miles of Maine roads, 18 Maine Air National Guard Cycle Team members, dressed in red, white and blue cycling outfits, coasted to the end of their three-day journey Aug. 20 in front of the local minor league baseball stadium here.

Their trek started in Bangor Aug. 18 and they headed south, stopping along the way to celebrate and promote the 60th anniversary of the Air National Guard with the public.
The event was part of Air Force Week New England Aug. 17 to 26, which is celebrating the Air Force’s birthday with special events in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine.

Flat tires, hills, and rain did not stop them from informing the public about the Air National Guard and the Air Force.

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Air Guard’s charter members reflect on first 60 years [Repost]

Tech. Sgt. Mike R. Smith
National Guard Bureau

(Note: This reposted article was originally written and published April 9, 2007)

ARLINGTON, Va. (AF NEWS) — Their membership gets older and smaller every day. Nearly 60 years have passed since they formed, but time has not removed distant memories of 1946 and 1947 after these veterans helped claim victory in World War II and flew as Air National Guardsmen. 

You may have met them on your drill weekends outside your shop or at a base function. He was that man with the silver hair who grabbed your elbow in the hallway one Saturday afternoon to tell you about those who came before you. Or it was another senior citizen describing how his and other Airmen’s voices filled the cockpits of retired aircraft and echoed in hangars long since torn down. 

They are the Air Guard’s charter Airmen. They will be there when the Air Guard celebrates its 60th birthday this fall. 

Some of these charter Airmen keep in touch with their units and share their whereabouts and experiences through alumni groups, museums, speaking engagements, and interviews. 

Retired Colorado Air Guard Tech. Sgt. Harry Emily, 90, is the oldest living charter member of the Colorado Air Guard. 

Sergeant Emily joined the National Guard in 1938 and left after World War II. He helped train pilots, navigators, and aero engineers on B-25 Mitchell bombers, and he went to school to serve in a P-38 Lightning fighter squadron. He said there were 17 members in 1946 when they reorganized the 120th Aero Observation Squadron into the 120th Tactical Fighter Squadron, which flew P-51 Mustang fighters. They were the first Air Guard members in the country to be federally recognized. 

They federalized in Texas, and still have a photograph taken of the entire observation squadron. “That photo hangs in the Buckley Air National Guard Base headquarters building in Denver,” he said. 

During the war, many Army Air Corps units were moved or broken up, and their experienced Soldiers scattered throughout the Army. After the war, the new Air National Guard Airmen came from a war-expanded and reorganized Army Air Force. These veterans were already forming Air Guard squadrons in their hometowns when Congress established the Air Guard Sept. 18, 1947. 

Sergeant Emily said what defined the early Air Guard was no different than the National Guard today: The primary intent to take care of the state and to protect the nation in case of a national emergency. Everything has gotten bigger, he said, but the individuals and the families that sacrifice time to serve their state and country remain the same. 

“They are doing a wonderful job, and, God, we can’t do enough to support them,” he said. 

He and others from the original Colorado Air Guard do their best. The group helped build a museum. Established in 1994, the Winds over the Rockies Air and Space Museum in Denver is a place where people learn about the role of aviation and the Air Guard. The museum recorded and archived Sergeant Emily’s experiences on video. 

“At my age, all you have left is memories,” he said. Sergeant Emily was an Air Guard member, a newspaperman, a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a great-grandfather. He lives in Denver with his wife, Frances.

The origins of the Colorado Air Guard and Sergeant Emily’s small group are similar to how other Air Guard units started throughout the country. Most units existed as a handful of seasoned combat flyers and mechanics from the war. Others were the Air Guard’s first recruits. 

Lt. Col. Lloyd Goodrow, a public affairs officer for the Vermont Air Guard, said 27 World War II combat veterans organized the Vermont Air Guard, which was the fifth Guard unit to be federally recognized. 

“The original 27 Air Guard members are now reduced to four,” Colonel Goodrow said. 

The unit’s second wing commander, retired Brig. Gen. Richard Spear, is one of them. General Spear, who now lives in Arizona, was a pilot during World War II and started his own business when he returned home. But he left it when he heard there would be a flying unit in Burlington. 

“We had just a big, empty field. There was absolutely nothing there,” the general said. 

Colonel Goodrow said the unit leased a hangar from the city, which became home for their training aircraft, a C-47 Skytrain cargo plane, and an L-5 Sentinel liaison aircraft. Maintenance performed on the flightline. The unit provided air and sea rescue on Lake Champlain with its C-47, a 5-foot raft, and a 42-foot crash boat. 

Today the Vermont Air Guard is involved in homeland defense. Since 9/11, its 158th Fighter Wing has defended the nation with its F-16 Fighting Falcons. 

“Sixty years have passed, and so have many who proudly called themselves Vermont Air National Guardsmen,” said Colonel Goodrow. 

He said high tech multimedia marketing plans have now replaced the days of knocking on doors of World War II veterans to invite them to sign up for the Air Guard. 

“The ultimate desire to serve and make a difference remains the same,” Colonel Goodrow said. “These gentlemen, our original pioneers, lit the spark that became the powerful fire that is now the Air National Guard, and our gratitude for their courage and determination will remain. Our challenge is to carry on their great legacy.” 

(Photo U.S. Army Spc. Jessica Stone)

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Aeromeds join in Federal homeland security exercise

By Staff Sgt. Mike R. Smith, Guard Times Staff

NEWARK, N.J. — More than 20 New York Air National Guard Airmen returned home from Newark International. Airport April 7, 2005, after participating in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s “Top Officials 3” exercise.

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Hercules gets a Nose Job in Scotia

By Staff Sgt. Mike R. Smith, Guard Times Staff

STRATTON ANGB, Scotia, N.Y. — The 109th Airlift Wing’s C-130 Hercules are noted for their good looks. In fact, they win top international honors.

“This is the best-looking aircraft I have ever seen,” remarked a competition judge in 2000, just before the Wing won its third of four “Best Kept Aircraft in Show” titles at the Royal International Air Tattoo in England, beating out more than 150 aircraft, from over 30 countries.

Now, adding style to looks, the Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and the Multimedia Flight here started personalizing the Wing’s aircraft with nose-art in November 2004.

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Airmen Crate medical equipment for Refugees

By Staff Sgt. Mike R. Smith, Guard Times Staff

PLATTSBURGH AIR FORCE BASE, N.Y. — With a hospital full of dusty medical equipment, thousands of refugees needing medical treatment, and the Gulf of Mexico in between, a small mission upstate recently called upon Airmen to aid in a miracle.

“I feel blessed to have met this group,” Sister Deb said. She looks across the broken down remains of what was once an emergency room as sharp clanking and banging sounds echo through an open doorway on her right. Something large and heavy is being lifted.