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June Commander's View

  • Published
  • By Col. Paul J. Hargrove
  • 146th Airlift Wing
Another drill is upon us and I will update you on the AMC ORI, the MAFFS call out, the 18th AF/CC visit, and a memorable speaker at Wingman Day.

We have contacted the AMC/IG several times this past month to get a status of our October Operational Readiness Inspection; however, we have not received any formal notice of a cancelation yet. Maj Gen Baldwin, The Adjutant General of California National Guard, called the AMC Vice Commander and had a conversation about the status of our ORI, but no more information could be given. The ACM IG liaison officer, Lt Col Barras, advised that he will let us know as soon as possible when we are officially released from the ORI and I will immediately pass this information to you. The War Skills training scheduled for this drill has been canceled until further notice.

On the morning of May 2nd, a fire started in Camarillo and due to dry Santa Ana winds, grew out of control in a matter of hours. We were called to support Cal Fire that day and were ready in about 4 hours for a launch order. This was due to one MAFFS unit already being loaded for an exercise the next week with Cal Fire and aircrews/maintainers already at work and ready to go. The second MAFFS unit was loaded and we waited for a launch order, however we didn't get used by Cal Fire until Saturday afternoon. Many thought we were misused by Cal Fire, but I don't agree. We are one of many assets that Cal Fire has at its disposal and we were launched when our capability was needed by the incident commander. Cal Fire, like the USFS, has air tankers on contract and will use these assets first before coming to us. When we are activated, we wait for the call for a launch order to fight the fire. On Saturday, we made one drop on the Springs Fire and more importantly, were sent to a startup fire in Santa Maria. The MAFFS aircraft and other civilian air tankers were successful in extinguishing this new fire. The Springs Fire was being whipped by 50 mph winds on Thursday and fixed air tankers were not used due to these conditions. On Friday, the incident commander had enough air assets and didn't give us a launch order. The Springs Fire burned 28,000 acres, destroyed 10 outbuildings, damaged 6 outbuildings, damaged 6 commercial properties, and caused 8 injuries. Pt. Mugu's military housing was evacuated when the fire burned swamp grass up to the fence line of the Navy base. Cal Fire was aggressive in activating us this call out and we will be called out when needed in the future. Typically, we are federally activated by the USFS, but this was a State of California activation. Due to our quick response, Cal Fire will not hesitate to call us in the future when the need arises.

The 18th AF Commander, Lt. Gen. McDew, came to visit Channel Islands on the 9th and 10th of May. Lt. Col. Brian Kelly and I flew to March ARB to pick him up and flew him to Chico airport for a MAFFS observation ride. Lt. Col. Bryan Allen flew the MAFFS flight and showed Lt. Gen. McDew the firefighting mission first hand. Cal Fire has an annual training event at Chico and General McDew told me his flight was well worth the time. He was very appreciative for the opportunity and it would help him when MAFFS is discussed at his level in the future. Lt. Gen. McDew stayed overnight at Pt. Mugu and he returned to Channel Islands for a mission brief and tour of the base. Senior leaders discussed with him our concerns with the active associate in FY 2017 and the simulator that is to be built at our location. The active duty had previously told us that they would bring personnel to Operations, Maintenance, and Mission Support, but didn't plan on bringing additional aircraft. Lt. Gen. McDew understood our concerns, but wasn't sure where the additional aircraft would be transferred from. He said that personnel only was a base by base decision, but couldn't tell us if additional aircraft could be accomplished. The simulator is currently on the list at AMC, but is unfunded at this time. Lt. Gen. McDew was made aware that the simulator was essential to a successful active associate at Channel Islands. Lt. Gen. McDew held an all hands briefing in the wing auditorium, giving an entertaining and informative briefing. Overall, he was impressed with our personnel and the base, thanking everyone for their hard work and hospitality.

We had a Wingman Day on Wednesday 22 May and the guest speaker was Jason Barber. His presentation was a powerful and thought provoking message on drunk driving. Jason was convicted several years ago of killing his younger brother while driving while intoxicated and spent 4 years in State Prison. He has fought to overcome the guilt and shame of this tragic incident, having since becoming a drug and alcohol abuse counselor to at risk teens. He spoke of drunk driving as a choice, as opposed to an accident. My only regret of this presentation is that we didn't video tape it. I think that everyone could benefit from his story and would hopefully change some lives. Wing leadership has spoken against drunk driving numerous times in the past, but we have had 7 drunken driving arrests among our personnel in the last year. Our last DUI was a felony arrest for an accident that severely injured an innocent citizen, leaving him paralyzed. Please be responsible and designate sober drivers if you are out and having alcoholic beverages. Also, be a good wingman and don't let your friends get behind a wheel if they are not sober.

I hope this drill is productive for you and I will see you around the base,

Paul Hargrove, Col
146th AW/CC