JEFFERSON CITY, Missouri – Since Memorial Day, members of the Missouri National Guard have been supporting local communities in Missouri respond to historic flooding in the region.
In Hardin, about 100 Airmen came to help from the 131st Bomb Wing, based at Whiteman Air Force Base, and the St. Joseph-based 139th Airlift Wing. They were part of a broader activation of Missouri National Guard forces called into service by Missouri Gov. Mike Parson.
“The Air National Guard is here to help our community,” said Missouri Air National Guard Command Chief Master Sgt. Joseph Hamlett, a former 139th member who spent time with the Airmen in Hardin. “Quite frankly, that’s why most of us join the Air National Guard, so we could be at home and help our surrounding communities. Realistically, this could be any of us in this type of situation. For us to be able to come out and lend a helping hand to our fellow citizens is great.”
In addition to supporting the state during such conditions, these units support different federal missions.
The 131st works alongside the U.S. Air Force’s 509th Bomb Wing to operate and maintain the nation’s fleet of B-2 Spirit bombers. They are part of the Air Force Global Strike Command’s mission to provide strategic deterrence, global strike, and combat support for the Department of Defense.
The 139th conducts C-130 Hercules operations in support of the Air Force Air Mobility Command to provide rapid, global mobility and sustainment for America’s armed forces. Additionally, they are home an Advanced Airlift Tactics Training Center, which trains aircrews from across DoD and allied forces from around the world.
While both ANG units support the nation’s defense, they serve the people of Missouri, under the authority of the state’s governor. Typically, during state emergency missions, they are tasked to work together to build a seamless team of Citizen-Airmen.
“Everyone worked really well together,” said Tech. Sgt. Tim Freeman, the personnel reliability program manager for the 131st. “You could not tell the difference between the two wings.”
Freeman said he was impressed with how everyone watched out for each other. Supervisors were on-hand to take care of Airmen needs at the work site.
To date, Missouri Guard members have filled more than 100,000 sandbags. Everyone was crucial in preventing further water damage to city buildings and critical infrastructure throughout the area.
“Today, we saw an expanded version of our community,” said Stan Falke, the emergency management director for Carroll County. “It was amazing to see everyone drop what they were doing and come to support our local community. Without the National Guard here today, we could not accomplish what we did.”
The Guard Airmen made an impact not only on the local community but also on their fellow wingmen.
“Anytime you have two units coming together there is always going to be competitive nature, and you’re going to want to outshine the other unit; however, we never lost sight of the mission at hand,” said Staff Sgt. Matthew Carroll, a fuels distribution specialist for the 139th Airlift Wing. “We all had the same goal in mind and came together to get the job done. It is pleasing knowing everyone here raised their hand and said send me first.”
Residents came out to display appreciation by providing meals and water to all of the community volunteers.
Both wings prepare Airmen annually on state emergency procedures in case of natural disasters such as tornadoes, earthquakes or flooding. Every Airman trained to the same standards.
“Our Air National Guard members train, and they do a two-week training, but this is real world. They’re able to apply those skills that they learn in their training school,” Hamlett said.