Friday, July 31, 2015

Wake Island, Invaded Again! July 2015







Wake Island is one of my favorite places.  I have visited there many times since the early 1990s to conduct archaeological and environmental compliance projects for US Army.   Its tropical beauty is only surpassed by the tragic history that abounds among its beaches and concrete pillboxes.  Wake is not only a military installation, but a bird sanctuary and a National Historic Landmark for the World War II siege and battle that occurred there.  Wake is over 2,000 miles west of Hawaii and one of the most isolated US outposts.
 


Wake Island (actually a coral atoll composed of three islands, Wake, Wilkes and Peale) was once a thriving military base.  It is now inhabited only by a hand full of Air Force military and civilian personnel and a crew of Thai workers who keep the facilities and airfield open for use.  The main "customer" now is the US Missile Defense Agency.  This month Typhoon Halola passed over the low lying atoll and most of the personnel were evacuated as the storm approached.




The storm caused quite a bit of damage and littered enough debris on the airfield that supply rescue aircraft could not land.  On July 20, 2015 Wake was invaded again, but this was a different invasion than the one that occurred in December, 1941. 




Waking Up Wake




Special operations airmen from Kadena AB, Japan, executed a parachute jump onto Wake Island in the Western Pacific to clear the island's runway following a typhoon earlier this month. "Special tactics operators and MC-130 aircrew provide a rapid response to difficult problems that makes it safer for the next guy to get the job done," Lt. Col. Edmund Loughran, commander of Kadena's 320th Special Tactics Squadron, said in a release. All personnel were evacuated from Wake ahead of Typhoon Halola, leaving it vacant since July 15, according to officials. The 353rd Special Operations Group airmen surveyed and cleared the runway permitting contingency responders aboard a C-17 to land 20 minutes later to begin reopening the base. "It was critical that we open the airfield and get Wake Island back online quickly," said 36th Contingency Response Group Commander Col. Lee Anderson from Andersen AFB, Guam. The 353rd SOG flew the mission aboard a 1st Special Operations Squadron MC-130H Combat Talon II on July 18.


353rd SOG aids Wake Island airfield opening


By Tech. Sgt. Kristine Dreyer, 353rd Special Operations Group Public Affairs / Published July 24, 2015



WAKE ISLAND AIRFIELD -- Members from the 353rd Special Operations Group deployed to Andersen Air Base, Guam, July 18, 2015 to support the 36th Crisis Response Group with the opening of Wake Island airfield after a typhoon hit the island.


Prior to Typhoon Halola’s arrival, more than 125 Department of Defense members were evacuated July 15, 2015 leaving the island vacant. After the typhoon moved past the island, a Special Tactics Team from the 320th Special Tactics Squadron was tasked to conduct the initial assessment of the runway.


Aircrew from the 1st Special Operations Squadron and Special Tactics
operators from the 320th Special Tactics Squadron, conduct mission planning
for the opening of Wake Island while enroute to Andersen Air Base, Guam,
July 18, 2015. Members from the 353rd Special Operations Group worked with
the 36th Contingency Response Group from Andersen Air Base, Guam, to open
Wake Island air field after Typhoon Halola passed through the island. (Photo
courtesy of Staff Sgt. Matthew Sharp)
“The 353rd SOG responded quickly and efficiently to support the 36th CRG,” said Lt. Col. John Trube, 353rd SOG deputy commander and mission commander. “This operation not only demonstrated the SOG’s ability to quickly deploy anywhere, anytime in the Pacific, but it also showed seamless interoperability between the 36th CRG and the 353rd SOG that led to mission success.”

Staged out of Andersen Air Base, Guam, an MC-130H Combat Talon II from the 1st Special Operations Squadron provided airlift for a Special Tactics jump clearing team and combat search and rescue team to infil Wake Island. After conducting military freefall operations onto an unmarked drop zone, the operators were able to clear the runway, assess the airfield environment and receive the first aircraft within 20 minutes allowing the arrival of a C-17 Globemaster III from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, carrying a team from the 36th CRG and Wake Island Airfield staff.



The view from an MC-130H Combat Talon II flying over Wake Island July 20,
2015. Members from the 353rd Special Operations Group worked with the 36th
Contingency Response Group from Andersen Air Base, Guam, to open Wake Island
air field after Typhoon Halola passed through the island. (U.S. Air Force
photo by Tech. Sgt. Kristine Dreyer)


A rescue jumpmaster from the 320th Special Tactics Squadron uses rescue
jumpmaster procedures to allow a special tactics team to conduct military
freefall onto an unknown and unmarked drop zone. Members from the 353rd
Special Operations Group worked with the 36th Contingency Response Group
from Andersen Air Base, Guam, to open Wake Island air field after Typhoon
Halola passed through the island. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt.
Kristine Dreyer)
“The sheer size of the Pacific can turn an ordinary mission into a real challenge,” said Lt. Col. Edmund Loughran, 320th STS commander. “Special Tactics operators and MC-130 aircrew provide a rapid response to difficult problems that makes it safer for the next guy to get the job done. I am very proud of what the Team was able to accomplish on Wake Island.”




A special tactics team from the 320th Special Tactics Squadron jumps out of
an MC-130H Combat Talon II to infil onto Wake Island July 20, 2015. Members
from the 353rd Special Operations Group worked with the 36th Contingency
Response Group from Andersen Air Base, Guam, to open Wake Island air field
after Typhoon Halola passed through the island. (U.S. Air Force photo by
Tech. Sgt. Kristine Dreyer)

Once access to the island was gained, the crisis response Airmen from Andersen Air Base worked with the local residents to further assess the area for damage and reestablish the airfield, so normal operations could resume as quickly as possible.



A combat controller from the 320th Special Tactics Squadron clears the first
C-17 Globemaster III from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, to land on
Wake Island July 20, 2015 after it was hit by a typhoon. The special tactics
team was the first to arrive to the island by military freefall jump from an
MC-130H Combat Talon II. Members from the 353rd Special Operations Group
worked with the 36th Contingency Response Group from Andersen Air Base,
Guam, to open Wake Island air field after Typhoon Halola passed through the
island. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kristine Dreyer)

"It was critical that we open the airfield and get Wake Island back online quickly,” said Col. Lee Anderson, 36th CRG commander. “The team from 353rd SOG showed up with skilled operators ready to execute. It's always a pleasure to work with the Quiet Professionals."



A special tactics team from the 320th Special Tactics Squadron unloads
equipment from an MC-130H Combat Talon II on Wake Island July 20, 2015.
After conducting military freefall operations onto the unmarked drop zone,
the operators were able to clear the runway and receive the first aircraft
within 20 minutes. Members from the 353rd Special Operations Group worked
with the 36th Contingency Response Group from Andersen Air Base, Guam, to
open Wake Island air field after Typhoon Halola passed through the island.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kristine Dreyer)
Wake Island airfield, located in the Pacific Ocean between Japan and Hawaii, is ran by the U.S. Air Force and is managed by the PACAF Regional Support Center at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. In addition to being a strategic location in the Pacific, Wake Island serves as a divert airfield for overseas flights.




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