Crash recovery teams honored at all call
By Airman Ashley J. Woolridge, 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
/ Published December 06, 2012
ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- "Today, it is with heavy hearts that we recall and mourn the events of July 1, 2012."
Col. Gentry Boswell, 28th Bomb Wing vice commander, opened the Nov. 28 all call at the Pride Hangar with those words, reminding everyone present of the grievous event that claimed the lives of four Airmen, injured two Airmen, and forever changed the lives of so many others.
"On that day, the 145th Airlift Wing of the North Carolina Air National Guard suffered and overcame a tragic loss," Boswell continued.
At approximately 6 p.m., July 1, a modular airborne firefighting system-equipped C-130 Hercules crashed in the southwest corner of South Dakota while supporting the efforts against the White Draw Fire.
"Following the crash of the C-130, approximately 97 Guardsmen, Airmen and civilians from the local community came together for the sole purpose of recovering the remains, returning the two survivors, removing the remains with honor and dignity, and securing the crash site for further investigation," Boswell said.
In attendance to offer their personal thoughts and thanks to Ellsworth personnel who assisted in the crash recovery effort were leaders of the North Carolina National Guard.
Brig. Gen. Todd Kelly, North Carolina National Guard assistant adjutant general - air, expressed his appreciation and briefly shared about each C-130 crew member to commemorate their service.
"The MAFFS crew were all combat warriors," Kelly said.
Army Maj. Gen. Gregory Lusk, North Carolina National Guard adjutant general, spoke about the tremendous impact Ellsworth personnel had on the entire operation.
"We're grateful for your professionalism and efficient response," Lusk said.
Col. Roger Williams, Jr., 145th AW commander, and Army Command Sgt. Maj. John Swart, North Carolina National Guard senior enlisted advisor, were also present to show their appreciation for Ellsworth's assistance.
First Lt. Gregory Stafford, 28th BW executive officer, explained the efforts of each team's contribution before the Airmen, Soldiers and civilians were each awarded North Carolina State Achievement or Commendation medals.
"First responders provided tactical-level, on-scene incident command and control management for the downed C-130 aircraft within six hours of initial notification," Stafford said. "The remains recovery team's focused efforts ensured the needs of two surviving Air Force Reserve crew members were attended to, and the remains of four crew members were honorably and expeditiously removed from the crash site."
Stafford added that in addition to the first responders and remains recovery team, the aircraft recovery and recovery supply teams' roles proved to be vital, as well.
"The aircraft recovery team battled long and hot days to disassemble and transport more than four tons of aircraft parts across rugged and uneven terrain," Stafford said. "The recovery support team's efforts ranged from immediately establishing an emergency operations center at Ellsworth Air Force Base, leading the Interim Safety Investigation Board, providing heavy equipment support to setting up a robust communications network."
Stafford concluded the ceremony by bidding farewell to the official party and emphasizing the extraordinary service of the individuals who were honored.
"The actions you just heard exemplify the outstanding commitment and dedication of our Airmen, Soldiers and civilians while enduring harsh conditions, when the need for help was paramount," Stafford said.