ETHEL — Practice drops conducted at the Camp Branch Surface Mine Thursday afternoon was right on target. A partnership including Alpha Natural Resources, National Resource Partners, the W.Va. Department of Environmental Protection and the National Guard has been working on a project for post mine use of the Camp Branch site.
Alpha CAPP Central Sr. Vice Pres. Mike Snelling and Alpha Brooks Run West Vice Pres. Surface Mine Operations Steven Poe welcomed Air National Guard officials Major General James A. Hoyer, Adjutant General of the W.Va. Air National Guard, Brigadier General David T. Buckalew, Director of Joint Staff W.Va. National Guard, Colonel Jerome M. Gouhin of the 130th Airlift Wing Commander, Col. Johnny Ryan, Operations Group Commander, Lt. Col. Michael Cadle, Director of Staff W.Va. Air Guard, Russell E. “Gene” Altizer, Col. (retired)Deputy Adjutant General for Air Guard and Special Forces Green Berets Cols. Russell Crane H. B. Gilliam.
According to Maj. Gen. Hoyer, there are not many opportunities in the U.S. to do this kind of training and it won’t be just the W.Va. National Guard using the facility.
“Units will come here to train on something that you guys built that I guarantee will save young men and women’s lives in combat situations all over the world,” said Hoyer, “It is something unique from a national perspective and you all should be proud of being part of it. We look forward to making this a national asset where people from across the country will come and train in Logan County to defend this nation.”
The training field will include an all-weather drop zone and two landing strips, which will accommodate C-130 and C-17 planes. Other maneuvers and training may be added eventually.
Hoyer says the terrain and conditions in this area of W.Va. are more like those in Afghanistan, where many of the soldiers in the Air Guard are serving. The goal is training that will enable the drops in the field to be as close as possible to the soldiers. The more time saved on recovery of the necessary equipment and supplies will save lives.
W.Va. Delegate Justin Marcum said this training site is another great example of the positive use of land after mining operations have been completed. Marcum also said he would like to see additional development at the site.
Hoyer was presented with a personalized hard hat painted to depict the air drop, which he accepted on behalf of the 6,500 members of the W.Va. National Guard.
Alpha’s Camp Branch Surface Mine is located at Ethel and has worked 700 days without a lost time accident. For more information about Alpha, visit alphanr.com.