News: 4th CAB's ‘Mustangs’ save 1,026 people
Story by Sgt. Jonathan Thibault
BOULDER, Colo. – Heavy rains, low visibility and even complete darkness did not stop air crews from 4th Infantry Division from rescuing more than 1,000 people in Boulder County, Colo., Sept. 14-16.
Aviation crews from 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment, 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, assisted with rescue and recovery operations due to massive flooding, near Boulder, Colo., in support of the Colorado National Guard.
Besides the sheer number of people rescued, they also have flown for more than 130 hours, saved 378 family pets and performed 43 hoist missions.
This is the second time this summer 4th CAB has provided support to civilian authorities. The first time the brigade helped was during the Black Forest fires. Soldiers are working side-by-side with civilian agencies and the Colorado National Guard to provide assistance where needed.
The Colorado National Guard is supporting flood operations in five counties in Colorado, said Lt. Col. Mitch Utterback, state interagency and liaison officer, Colorado National Guard.
They are glad that 2nd GSAB, 4th Aviation Regiment is supporting their effort to help Colorado residents.
“2-4 GSAB gave an immediate response,” said Utterback. “They showed up in late (Friday) afternoon and ended up rescuing 45 people. They did the first night of the rescue effort in night vision goggles. They helped rescue more than 500 people the following day. This is only three months after they supported the firefighting efforts at the Black Forest fires.”
Utterback said there are estimated 20-30 local and federal agencies involved in the rescue and recovery operations for the Boulder floods. The Guard and the CAB work well with those agencies.
“The interoperability between the Colorado National Guard and 4th CAB to work with multiple agencies is flawless, because of the ability of 2nd GSAB, 4th Aviation Regiment, to respond quickly to emergencies,” said Utterback. “I don’t believe I’ve seen that from any other aviation units in the Army.”
The brigade leadership attributes much of that to their experience dealing with the Black Forest fire.
The quick response was in part due to preparation during the activation of the unit, said Maj. Eric Carlson, operations officer, 2nd GSAB, 4th Aviation Regiment.
“A lot of the after action reports from the Black Forest Fire were implemented, which helped a lot,” Carlson said.
Residents of the local area also appreciated the brigade’s presence.
It is very heartwarming to have military support in this time of crisis, said Monique Whitener, volunteer for the Lyons Fire Department.
“When we saw the military convoys and aircraft come in; it was the most emotional feeling of relief,” said Whitener, who lives in Lyons, Colo., which was severely affected by the floods. “I broke down in tears. They (military) have done so much for us. We had no way of getting our firefighters and elderly out of an area and the helicopters got them out.”
Whitener said that in some areas the floods have widened rivers from 20 feet to as much as a 1,000 feet, which has caused them take different paths. Some of the changes have caused the paths to go directly through towns, causing people to be cut off from main roads. She said this why the helicopters are a huge asset to their rescue efforts.
“We are glad to have the helicopter units here,” said Whitener. “It helps all the agencies come together so well, and makes it very fortunate for the amount of people we are bringing in each day.”
The sentiment was also echoed by the people stranded at Camps Cal-wood and Balarat Saturday, where 85 fifth-grade students from Fireside Elementary and the Denver public school system had been since Sept. 11.
“We were so excited to see you guys,” said Lori Bright, volunteer parent, Fireside Elementary. “First helicopter that came, we all ran down to the lower pastures to watch.”
Micheal Lehman, National Forest Service, was assigned civilian helicopter crew members to help with the 4th CAB’s Chinook helicopters.
They helped load passengers and their gear. They said they were happy to support the military with their mission.
“It’s nice to have (4th CAB) here,” said Lehman. “Without the National Guard or 4th CAB, we would not have been able to rescue 500 people in one day. The helicopters and their hoist capabilities got the job done. It great to see all these agencies come together for great cause to such a devastating incident.”
The brigade also wanted to express appreciation for the local community in helping them accomplish the mission.
“The Boulder Municipal Airport has been very supportive with ramp space and billeting,” said Carlson. “The local community has been very supportive of our efforts.”
Second GSAB, 4th Aviation Regiment is continuing to conduct rescue and recovery operations until all civilians are accounted for, or until told to cease their mission.