Tuesday, February 16, 2010

451st AEW cleans up, takes care of Airmen after flash flood

An Airman cleans up the Munitions Assembly Conveyer at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. Two to six inches of mud covered the 451st Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron Munitions Flight's Bomb Build Pad after the flash flood that occurred February 8, 2010. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Matt McCullah) Full size

by Staff Sgt. Angelique N. Smythe
451st Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

2/16/2010 - KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- A flash flood on Kandahar Airfield left behind a mess of inundated areas, stranded vehicles and displaced personnel Feb. 8.

A team of Airmen and leaders from units throughout the 451st Air Expeditionary Wing gathered to create a plan of action to clean up and assist those who'd been affected by this sudden flood.

"We had a cold frontal boundary that was laying over the south of us, somewhat northwest through southeast," said Capt. Travis Longmire, the 451st Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron Weather Flight commander. "It lingered over the weekend, causing bad overrunning conditions and resulted in local flash flooding.

"The high clay content in the soil didn't allow for the water to disperse and instead made channeling into the low lying areas very hazardous. So, whereas, we didn't have more than two to three inches of precipitation, it turned into a raging flood because of the soil types that we have here locally."

In the darkness of the night on Feb. 7 and the morning of Feb. 8, people woke up to considerable amount of water rising fairly close to their lower bunks. Some workcenters received water inside their facilities as well, damaging computers and supplies.

Airmen from the Command Post said they received several calls throughout the night from Airmen as they realized water levels were rising in most places around the installation. For Air Force members, places it affected most included South Park (a compound filled with tents for lodging of servicemembers), the War Reserve Materiel and Supply compound, and the northern part of the installation.

"As daylight started to shine on our situation, we realized we had quite a mess on our hands," said Col. Todd Tyree, 451st Expeditionary Mission Support Group commander.

The Wing's tents were located in the lowest area of South Park, with tents 1A through 1F receiving the worst flooding with waters approximately knee-deep in height. There were quite a number of vehicles sunken in ditches, several compounds were completely flooded, and pallets of objects had been washed out across the road. Ditches hidden by muddied waters posed many safety challenges, and people were asked to exercise caution and remain in their areas instead of exposing themselves to these risks.

After going out to survey the flooded regions and assess the needs of Airmen, Chief Master Sgt. Curtis Storms, 451st EMSG superintendent, and other 451st AEW leaders pulled together a team of Airmen and sprung into action.

"It was definitely a team effort," Chief Storms said. "Things looked okay operationally, so we were directed by leadership to focus on the Airmen. We grabbed a team of approximately 15 Airmen from the operations, maintenance, and mission support groups and went out to South Park to begin a cleanup detail. The main focus was getting the moisture out of the tents so we could get the people back in."

The Airmen lifted the sides of the tents and used brooms, mops, squeegees, anything they could to usher the water and silt out.

"All but two tents were habitable within the first 16 hours of us responding down there," Chief Storms said.

After the cleanup, approximately 80 people were able to go back to their tents. Twenty-six were placed in temporary lodging.

Chief Storms recognized the Airmen and first sergeants who helped, as well as those who worked behind the scenes and accounted for one hundred percent of their personnel.

"We had to make sure we had everyone accounted for because people were displaced once they realized they couldn't get back to their homes," Chief Storms said.

"We were already ahead of the game and even the U.S. Army's 649th Regional Support Group applauded us for our initiative," he said.

Airmen all throughout the wing put forth efforts to help all who were affected by the flood.

Approximately 20 Airmen from the 451st Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron were displaced, however, the defenders still provided manpower to aid in the cleanup efforts both at South Park and the WRM and Supply compound. They blocked traffic along the base perimeter and from flooded roads. Their Tactical Automated Sensor System monitored perimeter breaches and also aided in the rescue of a stranded individual who'd been washed off base by the flood.

The 451st Expeditionary Force Support Flight Services team made arrangements to lodge displaced personnel in the Camp Samek Morale, Welfare and Recreation tent. Cots, pillows and sleeping bags were provided to displaced personnel. The Camp Samek gym was converted into a holding area to secure flood victims' belongings from flooded tents. Laundry bags were provided to Airmen who needed to wash their personal belongings, and an area was set up for drying clothing.

The 451st Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron convoyed luggage back to South Park and pulled vehicles out of mud and ditches.

Airmen from the 451st Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron performed assessments of flood damage at each Air Force camp. Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning technicians repaired environmental control units. Heavy Repair and Supply delivered pallets of sandbags to the 738th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group whose headquarters had accumulated up to one foot of water. The 451st ECES also delivered cots to Camp Samek and assisted those in the WRM and Supply compound with their cleanup efforts.

The 451st AEW Legal team also treaded the flood waters in South Park to take photos of the damage and prepare for potential claims. They informed Airmen of the proper procedures for filing a claim and explained how they could assist in getting them reimbursed for lost or damaged property.

The team effort extended beyond the team players of the 451st AEW.

There were offers of help from Bagram Airfield and other wings across the area of responsibility.

The 451st Expeditionary Communications Squadron coordinated with Air Force Forces Command and Air Force Central to receive a shipment of replacement computers. They also evaluated in place infrastructure, as well as job sites where infrastructure installation had been ongoing.

As all of these efforts were conducted, the mission still went on.

"Operations did not stop," Colonel Tyree said. "The mission support group is all about facilitating what it takes to let our aircraft fly their missions. We make sure the people who maintain and operate the aircraft are fed, housed, lodged and have the right supplies they need, such as electricity and communications. We continued to do all the things we'd do on a regular basis as we dealt with this challenge."

Colonel Tyree said he was impressed by people's positive attitudes and willingness to deal with the impact of the flood.

"With a little bit of laughter, people commented this would be a memorable deployment, as in some ways, out of challenges come great results and great memories," he said. "It will be a remarkable memory for me, considering how well people came together, worked as a team, responded and got the mission going. I'm very proud of that."


Note:This Munitions Assembly Conveyer is used to prepare weapons for uploading on A-10Cs which are currently deployed to Kandahar Airfield.

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