| Witnessing, now remembering the 9-11 attacks
Five years after witnessing the terror attacks of Sept 11, 2001, a C-130 flight crew from the Minnesota Air National Guard's 133rd Airlift Wing remembers the day like it was yesterday
Taking off from Andrews Air Force Base, the crew enjoyed the beautiful weather and admired the sun shining off the Potomac River It was Lt Col
Steve O'Brien, the aircraft commander, who spotted an airplane at his 10 o'clock position The aircraft was American Airlines Flight 77 that hijackers crashed into the Pentagon
"When I first saw the aircraft it was moving fast and that's when air traffic control called and asked, 'Do you see an airplane, can you tell me what kind it is,' and then asked for us to follow it," said O'Brien "Never in 20 years of flying was I asked to follow a commercial airliner"
A few minutes later, O'Brien and his crew witnessed the nation under attack without realizing it "We saw a fireball on the ground from jet fuel exploding and then saw the silhouette of the Pentagon through the haze of smoke," said O'Brien
After air traffic control received the report from O'Brien, the flight crew was advised to continue their original mission and return home to Minnesota
The F-16 fighter jets were immediately mobilized to patrol and secure the area
Starting the flight home, the crew tuned in a newscast using an old-style navigation radio Although they were expecting to hear about an airplane crashing into the Pentagon, the first thing the crew heard was that a second airplane hit the World Trade Center New York City was reported to be up in smoke And then reality struck; the nation was under an organized terrorist attack
Minutes later while the crew was flying over Pennsylvania air traffic control made contact with O'Brien and asked if they could spot another aircraft, Flight 93 After glancing in all directions outside the windows, smoke was detected barreling from an open field at the left hand side of the airplane
"I thought the smoke was from a farmer burning, or a junk yard," said O'Brien "I was trying to be optimistic - the last thing anybody wants is to witness two commercial airliners crashing in the same day"
O'Brien reported the position of the smoke to the air traffic controllers and then was directed to land at the nearest airport, Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio When the crew landed they witnessed another rarity; many large aircraft crammed into one small airport All airplanes were grounded at airports across the nation
After landing, the aircrew participated in a debrief with the FBI and intelligence officers, explaining what they witnessed Once released for the evening, O'Brien checked into his room, turned on the television and watched a report on Flight 93 crashing in a field in Shanksville, Pa
"The news report confirmed what I saw, I knew it was an airplane crash," said O'Brien "After our initial crew rest, we were put on alert to assist the Air Reserve for a few days before returning to Minnesota"
Many sleepless nights followed for the crew O'Brien explained that after a few weeks he started to wake up in the middle of the night in a complete conscious state of mind When the pattern continued for him and other crew members, O'Brien gathered the group to meet with a flight doctor to discuss how the mind deals with post-trauma In the meeting the flight doctor explained how sleeping patterns would restore, and they did
But memories still come back like the experience was yesterday
Master Sgt Jeffrey Rosenthal, Flight Engineer, explained that on a daily basis he is reminded about his 9/11 experience by reading the newspapers, watching the television and reminiscing about a recent deployment to the Middle East
"Still today we see first hand the results of terrorism in the world," said Rosenthal "Because I witnessed it first hand, I have a deeper appreciation for what we are doing and I know why America is fighting"
O'Brien and Rosenthal deployed multiple times since 9/11 to support Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom and are gearing up for another tour in early 2007
Five years after Sept 11, 2001, Rosenthal remembers the day clearly "I think I can speak for the crew and what we remember is not a memory, but a wish that it never happenedas time goes on, it seems like a memory that we all could have down without"
By 1st Lt Sheree Savage
Minnesota Guardsman recognized for cultural influence and leadership
Posted: 2016-05-19 09:08 AM
ST. PAUL, Minn. - For his work to promote diversity and build community relationships, Minnesota National Guard Warrant Officer Candidate Alan Lee received the Federal Asian Pacific American Council's Military Meritorious Service Award in Orlando, Fla., May 10, 2016. He was also recognized with a resolution in the Minnesota Senate and House of Representatives, May 18.
"To be selected as one out of 12 in the entire nation, I'm really honored," said Lee. "I'm still speechless about it, but I'm truly humbled for it. I don't even believe that I'm deserving of it, I just feel like I'm doing something for the community and for the National Guard."
Lee, whose parents were sponsored to come to America in 1980 as Laotian refugees in Thailand, was born in California and moved to Minnesota in 1990 to be with the rest of his large, extended family. Growing up, Lee heard stories about his grandfather and uncle serving in the Vietnam War which motivated him to want to serve as well. He enlisted at the age of 17 when he was a junior in high school.
Minnesota National Guard aviators respond to wildfires in northern Minnesota
Posted: 2016-05-18 09:21 AM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - Helicopter crews of the Minnesota National Guard joined firefighters May 6-9, 2016, in northern Minnesota to battle wildfires.
In response to requests made by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources through the Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Governor Mark Dayton authorized the use of four UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters and support personnel to assist in suppression of wildfires across the Iron Range in northern Minnesota.
"Our mission was to provide aviation support to the wildfire suppression missions which assisted the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources," said Maj. Jeremy Degier, aviation duty officer.
Planning and Execution: Keys to a Good Deployment
Posted: 2016-05-16 10:36 AM
DULUTH, Minn. - In early April 2016, the 148th Fighter Wing deployed approximately 300 Airmen and about a dozen F-16's to Osan Air Base, Korea as part of a Theater Security Package (TSP). TSP's have been an integral part of the U.S. Pacific Air Command's force posture since 2004. TSP deployments are routine and not due to any specific threat in the region and usually last three to four months. So, what does it take to make a deployment like this happen?
"From a Logistical Readiness Squadron (LRS) perspective, I would break a deployment into two phases; planning and execution," said Maj. Darin Phillips, 148th Fighter Wing Installation Deployment Officer.
During the planning phase personnel are trained according to the deployment reporting instructions of that theater, to include medical requirements and other personal qualifications. On the cargo side, Unit Deployment Managers (UDMs) and increment monitors work to build their cargo, so load plans can be submitted to get airlift for both equipment and personnel.
133rd Airlift Wing Welcomes New Commander
Posted: 2016-05-13 10:45 AM
ST. PAUL, Minn. - During a change of command ceremony, April 16, 2016, at the 133rd Airlift Wing's South Hangar, Col. Daniel E. Gabrielli took charge of the 133rd Airlift Wing from the outgoing commander, Col. James T. Johnson.
The military tradition of passing the unit guidon from the outgoing commander to the incoming commander was carried out with prestige by the presiding officer, Brig. Gen. David Hamlar, Minnesota National Guard Assistant Adjutant General - Air, with the assistance of Command Chief Master Sgt. Paul Kessler. Members of the wing, past and present, as well as friends and family filled the entire hangar to witness the event and to pass on well-wishes to both men.
"To all of you who make up the collective 133rd Airlift Wing, you are the heart and soul of the machine which accomplishes the mission on a day-to-day basis," said Gabrielli during his address to the Airmen. "My challenge to you all as well as myself, is to keep our focus simple. Be the best you can be and continually ask yourself - are you as ready as you can possibly be to execute your wartime mission?"