Tackling Floods and Blizzards

Among the US military forces dispatched to aid four states stricken by heavy flooding and snows are search and rescue crews and two UH-1N helicopters from Minot AFB, N.D. The Minot crews deployed first to Bismarck, N.D., where they helped break up ice dams “strategically placing dynamite,” said SrA. Timothy Merlin, a flight engineer from Minot’s 54th Helicopter Squadron. The Air Force Huey teams next shifted to Grand Forks AFB, N.D., where they were staging out of Hillsboro Airport for rescue missions. By being halfway between both Fargo—the site of some of the worst Red River flooding on record—and Grand Forks, 54th HS pilot 1st Lt. Chris Obranovich said, “We’re able to cover more ground for any potential rescue that may occur.” The Army National Guard also dispatched helicopters to the area, but they don’t have hoists like the Air Force helicopters, and, Lt. Col. David Lowe 54th HS commander, said that “brings a lot to the table in terms of rescue capability.” Under guidance from US Northern Command, 1st Air Force/Air Forces Northern activated the Joint Personnel Recovery Center at Tyndall AFB, Fla., to oversee SAR operations. The Civil Air Patrol, the Air Force Auxiliary, has been providing aerial photos to aid emergency responders and guide decisions about critical infrastructure and, on the ground, joined in the sandbag assembly lines in the stricken areas. Air Force and Army—active duty and National Guard—also have helped to fill and place sandbags and to provide security and man traffic control points. (More in National Guard Bureau March 26 release; NORTHCOM March 29 release; AFNORTH March 28 release; Grand Forks March 28 release; Minot March 25 release; CAP March 27 release)