ANG supports Flint with water supplies

By: Julie Snyder | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published February 27, 2016

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HARRISON TOWNSHIP — Nearly 3 million liter-size bottles of water have been shipped through Selfridge Air National Guard Base in the largest domestic support operation of the Michigan Air National Guard (ANG) in at least four decades.

According to a press release from Selfridge, the water bottles are being collected at Selfridge and will be shipped as needed to Flint in response to water safety concerns in that city. The 127th Wing of the Michigan ANG has been working closely on the project with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the lead federal agency for the water delivery program.

The Selfridge portion of the Flint water response has encompassed two major components, including the utilization of Selfridge as a water and truck storage area, and as a command and control center for water distribution. On a typical day, about eight semi-trucks, loaded with an average of 15,000 liters of water, travel from Selfridge to Flint.

In addition, both FEMA and the Michigan ANG have established command posts at Selfridge to monitor truck activities, inventory and related issues. The water operation at Selfridge was established on Jan. 17 at the base, after the decision was made to utilize it as the storage area. The Selfridge effort went into full operation on Jan. 18 and has been operating seven days per week since.

The other component involves 10 airmen of the 127th Wing being sent to Flint for about a week during the initial stages of the response to deliver water and water filters to Flint residents on a door-to-door basis, as part of a larger joint Michigan National Guard team. In addition, about a combined dozen airmen from the 110th Attack Wing in Battle Creek and the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center were also dispatched to Flint for the water response effort.

“Supporting domestic operations — direct assistance to our neighbors and our communities in a time of need — is one of the three core functions of the National Guard,” said Brig. Gen. John D. Slocum, 127th Wing commander and the Selfridge base commander. “Without hesitation, our Airmen raised their hands and said, ‘Where do you need me?’”

According to Lt. Col. Tom Sierakowski, a Selfridge officer who has been overseeing the 127th Wing’s Flint water efforts, at least 50 Selfridge airmen have been part of the mission.

“It ranges from our Security Forces airmen assisting with the truck traffic, people working on generators, supplying fuel, the airmen who went to Flint. We even had some of our aerospace ground equipment airmen over here setting up light stands so we could continue working after hours,” Sierakowski said in the press release. “Everyone just pitched in and has been doing what needs to be done to get the mission accomplished.”

The three core functions of the National Guard are fighting America’s wars, building long-term partnerships both domestically and internationally, and protection and support nationally.

“In the past year, Selfridge airmen have excelled at all three of those missions,” Slocum said. “From the historic numbers of airmen we deployed in 2015, the most since the Korean War, to the partnership missions we have ongoing with the nations of Latvia and Liberia, our operational tempo has been very high.

“With the Flint water response, we’ve been called upon to support the heartland in a critical mission. There just aren’t enough superlatives to express my appreciation to our 127th Wing airmen for all they have done in the past year.”

Slocum said the working relationship strengthened with FEMA over the past several weeks also benefits the southeast Michigan community.

“We’ve shown them the capabilities and the resources that exist here at Selfridge,” Slocum continued. “We stand ready to partner with them again at any time, should a need arise in the future in our communities.”

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