High water forces St. Joseph ANG to evacuate aircraft to Forbes

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Emily Alley
  • 190th ARW Public Affairs

When northwest Missouri flooded on May 7, the C-130s at the 139th Airlift Wing, in St. Joseph, Mo., had to leave. By the end of the day, six aircraft had been safely housed at
Forbes Field. 

Capt. Karl Fruendt was tasked with accommodating the aircraft, amidst other plans to deploy to Greensburg, Kan. and preparing for the SOUTHCOM mission. Normally, receiving such aircraft would have been the responsibility of Lt. Col. Rus Curtis, who was unavailable at the time. "It was such a frantic time, but one of the most rewarding days I've ever had," said Fruendt. He was proud of the opportunity to help the 139AW save its aircraft and equipment. "Based on the quick response of our people and the feedback from St. Joe unit, everyone involved deserves to be recognized for their part," said Curtis. Unfortunately, the chaos of that day left Fruendt at a disadvantage, such as "The vans that we use for crews were in Greensburg that day," he said. 

The 139AW selected Forbes Field when the aircraft relocated because of a "longstanding relationship" between the two units, as Fruendt describes. A similar situation occurred in 1993. "We and the 139th have a really good relationship. We worked well in the past and they know they'll be taken care of," he said. Although, during 1993 the 139th lost over 1 million dollar's worth of equipment because it was not relocated. This year each aircraft carried flight line equipment to avoid similar flood damage. 

Fruendt would also like to commend the crew chiefs who worked, some staying overtime, to make sure the C-130s were parked. Nine retiring KC-135s had to be moved in order to make room for the excess aircraft. "Once we heard they would come in we started moving aircraft," said Senior Master Sgt. Doug Copeland, of maintenance. "Our work was done before they got here." Copeland says that most maintainers were able to leave on time, although some stayed as late as 9 p.m. The greatest obstacle, according to Copeland, was number of aircraft already assigned to Forbes Field. There are currently 17 KC-135s. "We just have a lot more aircraft than normal," Copeland said. 

Each unit has an emergency plan to handle situations, such as housing excess aircraft, but plans are only updated every few years. Luckily, the 190ARW Reception Plan had been updated only six days prior to housing the C-130s. "Over the past decade, Forbes has been the temporary home to at least three evacuating air bases due to hurricanes, floods, or blizzards," said Fruendt.