Military Supports Federal Oil Spill Response
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 3, 2010 After flying over a massive oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico during the weekend, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, today reiterated the Defense Department’s commitment to work hand-in-glove with other U.S. agencies to reduce the slick’s environmental impact.
“It’s a tragic event that we’re all focused on, and there’s an awful lot of effort on the part of the entire government to mitigate this as quickly as we possibly can,” Mullen said during a podcast interview to be posted on the Defense Department Web site.
Mullen noted the military’s support role, being coordinated through U.S. Northern Command in support of the Department of Homeland Security, which has the lead for the federal response.
An Air Force Reserve C-130H aircraft conducted an aerial spraying mission this weekend to help disperse the oil, but weather prevented a second C-130H deployed to the region from spraying, Northcom spokesman John Cornelio told American Forces Press Service.
Both aircraft are expected to resume spraying missions as the weather clears, and when results of tests being conducted to assess the subsurface dispersant activity are completed, Cornelio said.
The aircraft, assigned to the 910th Airlift Wing’s 757th Airlift Squadron at the Youngstown Air Reserve Station in Ohio, are equipped with Modular Aerial Spray Systems. They can fly up to three flights a day, as needed to support operations, Pentagon spokesman Col. David Lapan said.
In addition, nearly 600 Louisiana National Guard troops have been called to federal active duty to support the mission, with up to 5,400 more to mobilize as needed, based on Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates’ approval of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s request last week. Jindal requested as many as 6,000 National Guard troops to add security, medical support, engineers, communications capability and cleanup crews to the oil slick containment effort.
The Guardsmen will serve under Title 32 authority, meaning they’ll serve under state control, but are funded through the federal government, Lapan explained.
Meanwhile, the onsite incident coordinator, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry, is reviewing similar requests from the governors of neighboring Alabama, Mississippi and Florida to mobilize their Guard forces under Title 32 authority, Lapan said.
Meanwhile, as the oil slick moves landward, the Navy has positioned equipment aimed at reducing the slick’s impact on Gulf Coast beaches and critical wetlands. The Navy dispatched 66,000 feet of inflatable oil boom with anchoring equipment, along with seven skimming systems and supporting gear to the region, along with 50 civilian contractors to operate and maintain it, reported Navy spokesman Lt. Myers Vasquez.
Workers at a staging area at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., also set out booms to help protect the shoreline and eco-system in the Pensacola area from the spill, reported Navy Lt. Michael Frost, the station’s port operations officer.
Naval Air Station Pensacola is one of seven staging areas that have been set up from Louisiana to Florida to protect sensitive shorelines, Frost said. Other staging areas are in Biloxi and Pascagoula, Miss.; Venice, Port Fourchon and Port Sulphur, La.; and Theodore, Ala.