USA — Air Force C130s, Navy Equipment to Support Oil Slick Response

WASHINGTON, April 30, 2010 — Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates has autho­rized two Air Force Reserve C‑130H air­craft to sup­port the response to a mas­sive oil slick that threat­ens wet­lands and beach­es along the Gulf Coast, Pen­ta­gon Press Sec­re­tary Geoff Mor­rell con­firmed today.

Aircraft and crews from the Air Force Reserve's 910th Airlift Wing
Air­craft and crews from the Air Force Reserve’s 910th Air­lift Wing pre­pare to leave Youngstown Air Reserve Sta­tion, Ohio, to a stag­ing area in the Gulf Coast region in antic­i­pa­tion of sup­port­ing emer­gency oil spill cleanup efforts, April 29, 2010.
Air Force pho­to by Air Force Mas­ter Sgt. Bob Barko Jr.

In addi­tion, the Navy has dis­patched 66,000 feet of inflat­able oil boom with anchor­ing equip­ment, along with sev­en skim­ming sys­tems and their sup­port­ing gear to the region, Navy Lt. Myers Vasquez report­ed.

The C130 crews, assigned to the 910th Air­lift Wing’s 757th Air­lift Squadron at the Youngstown Air Reserve Sta­tion in Ohio, had prepo­si­tioned in Mis­sis­sip­pi in antic­i­pa­tion of the task­ing.

“We are pos­tur­ing to be ready to pro­vide sup­port to the ongo­ing emer­gency efforts if called upon,” said Air Force Col. Craig Peters, the 910th Oper­a­tions Group com­man­der. Weath­er cur­rent­ly is ham­per­ing the air­craft from oper­at­ing, Mor­rell said, but flights could begin as soon as tomor­row. The air­craft are equipped with Mod­u­lar Aer­i­al Spray Sys­tems used for aer­i­al spray mis­sions, Air Force Mas­ter Sgt. Bob Barko Jr., the wing’s pub­lic affairs super­in­ten­dent, told Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice.

They are expect­ed to be called on to help dis­perse the oil slick in accor­dance with a 1996 memo of under­stand­ing between the Air Force and Coast Guard, Air Force offi­cials said. The 910th is home to the only full-time, fixed-wing, large-area aer­i­al spray unit with­in the Depart­ment of Defense. The unit con­ducts spray mis­sions at mil­i­tary instal­la­tions and their sur­round­ing com­mu­ni­ties, pri­mar­i­ly to con­trol bit­ing insects as well as veg­e­ta­tion growth on bomb­ing ranges, Barko said.

How­ev­er, tests con­duct­ed between 1992 and 1994 at the Coast Guard’s request demon­strat­ed the unit’s capa­bil­i­ty to apply dis­pers­ing mate­ri­als to oil slicks, such as the one cur­rent­ly threat­en­ing the Gulf Coast.

The aer­i­al spray unit trains for this mis­sion, most recent­ly, dur­ing a mul­ti-agency inter­na­tion­al exer­cise in Brownsville, Texas, in 2008, Barko said.

“This is a sit­u­a­tion we have trained for — for years,” Barko said of the Gulf mis­sion. “To have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to do it in the real world and help folks along the Gulf Coast with this capa­bil­i­ty is real­ly grat­i­fy­ing for every­one involved.”

The Navy equip­ment, along with 50 civil­ian oper­a­tors and main­tain­ers con­tract­ed through Naval Sea Sys­tems Com­mand, began arriv­ing yes­ter­day in Gulf­port, Miss., from Williams­burg, Va., and Port Huen­eme, Calif., Vasquez report­ed.

The equip­ment was quick­ly moved to the Mis­sis­sip­pi state dock near Gulf­port and put in use at the direc­tion of the fed­er­al on-scene coor­di­na­tor, he said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)