Martin C. Evans

Archive for August, 2011|Monthly archive page

Katrina’s Lessons To Guide Guard Deployment During Irene

In Uncategorized on August 26, 2011 at 5:31 pm

Acting to spare local Guard troops the possibility of having to chose between duty and family, National Guard leaders in Albany will send troops from elsewhere in New York State to assist local emergency crews during Hurricane Irene’s expected battering of Long Island.

Heeding a state of emergency declared today by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Albany has ordered a detachment of 220 soldiers from western New York State – complete with heavy trucks, chain saws and emergency equipment – to ride out the storm at the new Armed Forces Reserve Center in Farmingdale. Another 290 troops will be on call at Camp Smith, just north of New York City.

The troops and equipment would be ordered into action should local leaders on Long Island ask for help.

Meanwhile, Army and Air National Guard aircraft based at MacArthur Airport in Patchogue and at Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach spent today and yesterday being moved to airfields out of the storm’s path.

At Gabreski airfield, which is home to several C-130 cargo planes, aircraft from the 106th Air Rescue wing began leaving Thursday. Crew members with the 3rd Battalion, 142nd Aviation Regiment were to fly five Army National Guard UH-60 helicopters to Rochester from their base at MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma. The unit’s remaining three helicopters, which are undergoing maintenance, will be secured in hangers.

The Guard’s decision to call on troops from outside the area for disaster relief was based on the experience of emergency responders during Hurricane Katrina, said Guard spokesman Eric Durr.

With their own families threatened by rising waters during Katrina’s 2005 battering of New Orleans, many emergency workers there were unable to report for duty, which hampered rescue and recovery efforts.

“And remember, many of our Guard members themselves have day jobs as local policemen or firefighters, or have families of their own who might need help,” Durr said.

Durr said an additional 225 Guard troops from upstate would be available to join emergency crews in New York City, with 150 stationed at Camp Smith and another 75 an armory in Harlem.

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LI Armories, Reserve Centers to Close, Consolidate in Farmingdale

In Uncategorized on August 16, 2011 at 9:31 am

A $93 million facility that will allow National Guard, Army and Marines facilities to consolidate their operations at a single Long Island location opens in Farmingdale this morning – one year late and $7 million over its announced cost in 2007.

The facility on Route 110 just south of Republic Airport, will result in relocating operations from closing National Guard armories in Bay Shore, Huntington Station, Patchogue, Freeport and Riverhead, and Army and Marine Reserves centers in Uniondale and Amityville.

Military proponents say the consolidation will streamline the emergency mobilization of military assets whose operations and chains of commands are spread out across Long Island, and save millions in the cost of renovating and maintaining separate facilities.

But there has been some grumbling that removing military units from communities could leave them more vulnerable in case a hurricane or other large-scale emergency brought with it the need for immediate help in isolated villages and towns.

What do you think of this consolidation? Please post your comments, or contact me at 516 313-2906.

Navy Seal With Long Island Link Among Helicopter Dead

In Uncategorized on August 11, 2011 at 4:26 pm

Among the 30 special forces troops named today by the Pentagon as having been killed in Saturday’s Afghanistan helicopter crash was a Navy Seal who previously trained on Long Island to qualify for the elite military unit.

Chief Petty Officer Brian Bill, 31, of Stamford, Ct., participated a decade ago in physical screenings on the grounds of the Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, said retired Navy Capt. Drew Bisset, a former Navy Seal who tutored him.

“He was an outstanding young man – very motivated to become a Seal,” Bisset said. “This was something he wanted. This was his dream.”

The screenings were designed to improve a candidate’s chances of surviving the rigorous Seal training program, said Bisset, who has run the program for 17 years, and who last year moved his operations to a YMCA in Greenwich, Ct..

Bisset said Bill asked him to help prepare for the Seal program in 2001, shortly after Bill graduated from Norwich University, a private military college in Northfield, Vt..

Air Force Reserve Capt. Jonahan Scofield, who played with Bill on youth hockey teams, said even as a child, Bill would proclaim his desire to join the select Navy group.

“Brian’s answer was always that he wanted to be a Seal from the time I first knew him,” Scofield said. “He was just flawless in executing his plan.”

An obituary released by a funeral home indicated that Bill’s military awards including three Bronze Star medals awarded for combat valor.

Bisset said Bill is the fourth individual from the 100 who have gone from his program to become Seals to perish in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Lt. Michael P. Murphy, of Patchogue, who also trained under Bisset at Kings Point, became a Navy Seal in 2001, one year before Bill. Murphy perished during a 2005 Afghanistan battle that earned him the Medal of Honor.

Chief Petty Officer Nate Hardy, of Durham, New Hampshire, and Josh Harris, of Lexington, N.C., also trained with Bisset. Hardy perished in Iraq in 2008. Harris died in Afghanistan that same year.

The screen test Bisset administered at Kings Point required participants to complete at least 42 pushups, 50 situps, 6 chinups, a 500-yard swim and a 1.5 mile run, all within a few minutes of each other and under strict time limits. Bisset said he expected candidates to far exceed those minimums to be taken seriously.

The dead aboard the helicopter included 17 Navy Seals and five “enablers” from the Navy’s Special Warfare command. Five soldiers and three airmen were also aboard the CH-47 “Chinook” heavy lift helicopter.

Portraits of the men who were killed, published by Stars and Stripes, can be found here. Brief bios of the men can be found here.

The craft was shot down by a rocket propelled grenade in a valley west of Kabul early Saturday. It had been flying to the aid of ground troops who were engaged in a firefight. Pentagon officials said Tuesday that the crash was so “horrific” that the victims could not be quickly identified.

“This is a tough time for me,” Bisset said. “These guys are like my sons.”

The following sailors assigned to an East Coast-based Naval Special Warfare unit were killed:

Lt. Cmdr. (SEAL) Jonas B. Kelsall, 32, of Shreveport, La.,

Special Warfare Operator Master Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Louis J. Langlais, 44, of Santa Barbara, Calif.,

Special Warfare Operator Senior Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Thomas A. Ratzlaff, 34, of Green Forest, Ark.,

Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Senior Chief Petty Officer (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist/Freefall Parachutist) Kraig M. Vickers 36, of Kokomo, Hawaii,

Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Brian R. Bill, 31, of Stamford, Conn.,

Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) John W. Faas, 31, of Minneapolis, Minn.,

Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Kevin A. Houston, 35, of West Hyannisport, Mass.,

Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Matthew D. Mason, 37, of Kansas City, Mo.,

Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Stephen M. Mills, 35, of Fort Worth, Texas,

Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Chief Petty Officer (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist/Freefall Parachutist/Diver) Nicholas H. Null, 30, of Washington, W.Va.,

Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Robert J. Reeves, 32, of Shreveport, La.,

Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Heath M. Robinson, 34, of Detroit, Mich.,

Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL) Darrik C. Benson, 28, of Angwin, Calif.

Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL/Parachutist) Christopher G. Campbell, 36, of Jacksonville, N.C.,

Information Systems Technician Petty Officer 1st Class (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist/Freefall Parachutist) Jared W. Day, 28, of Taylorsville, Utah,

Master-at-Arms Petty Officer 1st Class (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist) John Douangdara, 26, of South Sioux City, Neb.,

Cryptologist Technician (Collection) Petty Officer 1st Class (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist) Michael J. Strange, 25, of Philadelphia, Pa.,

Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL/Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist) Jon T. Tumilson, 35, of Rockford, Iowa,

Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL) Aaron C. Vaughn, 30, of Stuart, Fla., and

Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL) Jason R. Workman, 32, of Blanding, Utah.

The following sailors assigned to a West Coast-based Naval Special Warfare unit were killed:

Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL) Jesse D. Pittman, 27, of Ukiah, Calif., and

Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 2nd Class (SEAL) Nicholas P. Spehar, 24, ofSaint Paul, Minn.

The soldiers killed were:

Chief Warrant Officer David R. Carter, 47, of Centennial, Colo. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion), Aurora, Colo.;

Chief Warrant Officer Bryan J. Nichols, 31, of Hays, Kan. He was assigned to the 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion), New Century, Kan.;

Sgt. Patrick D. Hamburger, 30, of Lincoln, Neb. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion), Grand Island, Neb.;

Sgt. Alexander J. Bennett, 24, of Tacoma, Wash. He was assigned to the 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion), New Century, Kan.; and

Spc. Spencer C. Duncan, 21, of Olathe, Kan. He was assigned to the 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion), New Century, Kan.

The airmen killed were:

Tech. Sgt. John W. Brown, 33, of Tallahassee, Fla.;

Staff Sgt. Andrew W. Harvell, 26, of Long Beach, Calif.; and

Tech. Sgt. Daniel L. Zerbe, 28, of York, Pa.

Tragedy Ripples Through Tight-Knit Navy Seals

In Uncategorized on August 8, 2011 at 10:32 am

The deadly crash in Afhghanistan involved a CH 47 helicopter like this one. (US Army photo)

Six years ago, the family of Lt. Michael P. Murphy waited inside their Patchogue, N.Y. home as a Naval officer waiting with them took a cell phone call, then offered them his condolences. Their missing Navy Seal son had been killed in what was then the deadliest incident of the war in Afghanistan.

Over the weekend, uniformed personnel began approaching the loved ones of 30 U.S. troops from across America – including 22 Navy Seals – telling them this time tragedy had come to their doorstep.

“This is bad,” Murphy’s father, Dan Murphy, said Monday. “Twenty-two families will have to go through what we had to go through then.”

The Saturday morning crash of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter during a mission in Afghanistan with 30 Americans and 8 Afghanis aboard replaced the 2005 incident in which Murphy was killed as the largest loss of life for U.S. forces since the war began in 2001.

By 2 p.m. Monday, the Pentagon had not released the names of the Americans killed in the crash, as is customary pending notification of next of kin. But as individual families across the nation began to learn of the loss of loved ones over the weekend, the shared news convulsed community after American community.

The deadly incident bore uneasy similarities to the 2005 confrontation in which Murphy and two fellow Seals were killed while pursuing a Taliban operative. During that mountainside battle near the Pakistan border, a helicopter carrying a rescue force of 16 U.S. commandos – including eight more Navy Seals and eight Army Night Stalkers – was shot down, killing all aboard.

This time, the troops who were killed had been responding by helicopter to a call for help from a Coalition force being fired upon in Wardak Province west of Kabul. The Coalition force had been pursuing a Taliban leader in the Tangi Valley. The helicopter crash occurred after it was fired upon, according to a NATO release.

The tragedy ricocheted through the nation’s tight-knit brotherhood of Navy Seals, a small group of elite fighters numbering little more than 2,000. Navy Seals have taken on some of the most challenging ground missions in modern warfare, including the May 2 killing of Osama Bin Laden at his Pakistan hideout.

Jim Quattromani, a former Navy Seal who trained with Murphy and who knew some of the men who were killed in the crash, said it was difficult for him to speak about the incident.

“It’s an overwhelmingly hard time for us,” said Quattromani, now a law clerk for a federal District Court judge in Chicag. “We miss these guys immeasurably.”

Dozens of Special Ops Killed in Afghanistan Crash

In Uncategorized on August 6, 2011 at 1:18 pm

Until now, the deadliest day for U.S. troops in Afghanistan was June 28, 2005, when a Long Island Navy Seal was killed with 18 comrades near the Pakistan border.

That changed Friday night, when Taliban insurgents shot down a helicopter west of Kabul, killing 30 U.S. troops – including 22 Navy Seals – along with seven Afghan commandos.

The grim incident brings into sharp focus the difficulty facing military leaders as they try to balance plans by the White House to reduce the size of U.S. forces there with the desire to avoid leaving Afghanistan an unstable danger to the troops who will remain until a planned final pullout in 2014.

The high death toll is likely to renew criticism from some circles that President Obama’s decision to speed the withdrawal of troops jeopardizes the lives of those still deployed in Afghanistan. One of the architects of the 2007 Iraq surge, retired Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. John Keane, warned in testimony before Congress last month that the troop draw down “has increased risk significantly and threatens overall mission success.”

But the incident has as a backdrop an increasing weariness amid the U.S. public with what by some accounting has been the longest war in U.S. history, one that is costing nearly $7 billion per month with no clear road to victory.

President Barack Obama issued a statement offering condolences to the families of the troops who were killed.

“My thoughts and prayers go out to the families and loved ones of the Americans who were lost earlier today in Afghanistan,” Obama said today in a statement.

“Their deaths are a reminder of the extraordinary sacrifices made by the men and women of our military and their families,” the president continued, “including all who have served in Afghanistan.

The slain troops were part of a mission to attack a Taliban compound in the Tangi valley, a region of apple and pomegranate trees running between Wardak and Logar provinces. The valley’s narrow roads overlooked by high cliffs make it easy for insurgents to ambush U.S. forces.

The area was said to have been pacified two years ago by soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division.

Before yesterday, the war’s deadliest incident was one in which a Patchogue Navy Seal, Lt. Michael P. Murphy, was slain along with two fellow Seals during a mountainside attack near the Pakistan border. A rescue helicopter bearing 16 special forces troops was shot down with no survivors.

Murphy was awarded the Medal of Honor by President George W. Bush.