148th Fighter Wing Fights Fire with Fuel
By Tech. Sgt. Scott G. Herrington, 148th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published September 26, 2011
DULUTH, Minn. -- With less than 24 hours notice, Senior Master Sgt. Ted J. Windus Jr., 148th Fighter Wing Fuels Distribution Flight Superintendent, and his team were ready to deploy at 7:30 a.m. Sept. 13, 2011 in support of the fire fight in Ely, Minn. On Sept. 14, they got the call and drove north, carrying with them 6,000 gallons of fuel.
That fuel would be used by four Blackhawk Helicopters flown by Minnesota Army National Guard members as they doused the fires repeatedly with their 500 gallon water payloads. Each helicopter flew several two hour missions, releasing eight to 10 loads of water--and two helicopters were airborne at any given time unless adverse weather was an issue.
The amount of time spent in the air took a toll on fuel reserves, and that's where the 148th Fuels Distribution Flight stepped up. The Army had an off-road capable fueling truck, able to carry 2,500 gallons of fuel to the Blackhawks. When that truck, a Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck (HEMTT), was empty, the 148th's R-11 Refueler was on hand to replenish the HEMTT's tanks.
"There were four Blackhawks parked out in a field. So what we did was refuel the HEMTT and they drove it out to the Blackhawks," said Senior Master Sgt. Windus. "It was pretty smooth."
"By us being up there, the Army avoided having to drive their HEMMT back down to St. Cloud or Duluth to refuel--saving them anywhere from four to eight hours of driving."
In addition to the Minnesota National Guard, local, state, and others from across the country were on hand to aid the fight.
"We were working with the DNR and the civilians in the area--we didn't work directly with them, but we all had the same goal," said Senior Master Sgt. Windus. "And our Army counterparts were great to work with."
State officials Gov. Mark Dayton, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sen. Al Franken and Rep. Chip Cravaack flew to Ely to see for themselves the fire fighting efforts.
"It was really nice to see that they supported the joint Army/Air National Guard effort in the fire fight," said Senior Master Sgt. Windus. "To have them come up and personally see it meant a lot."
The 148th Fuels Distribution Flight returned to Duluth Sunday, Sept. 18, 2011.