A Day to be Thankful for the New York National Guard

Soldiers from the New York Army National Guard’s 369th Sustainment Brigade, the legendary “Harlem Hellfighters,” prepare holiday meals at Manhattan’s Jacob Javits Center for shipment and delivery to city distribution sites. (Photo by Col. Raymond Shields, New York National Guard)

The following is part of an article is written by Col. Richard Goldenberg of the
New York National Guard:

As Americans prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday, more than 1,100 members of the New York National Guard continue their support of Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts or augment New York City
law enforcement at transportation centers for the single largest travel day in the nation.

Nearly 900 Guard Soldiers continue to support recovery operations in New York City, conducting door-to-door wellness checks in Far Rockaway. The National Guard, working in partnership with local authorities, visited more than 850 residences to assess local needs.

Other Soldiers will assist in the delivery of holiday meals to storm-affected families at 14 distribution centers as well as logistical support to city relief centers on Staten Island and Far Rockaway.

More than 250 other members of the New York National Guard’s standing security force in New York City, known as Joint Task Force Empire Shield, returned to their security duties this week after three weeks of rescue and storm recovery efforts.

New York has had National Guardsmen on duty full-time in New York City assisting with security since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

National Guard Response to Hurricane Sandy

Virginia National Guard Soldiers from Company G, 429th Brigade Support Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team conduct reconnaissance patrols in support of Hurricane Sandy operations Oct. 29, 2012, in Norfolk, Va. Virginia National Guard photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class A. J. Coyne

Approximately 7,400 National Guard forces are activating or are already on state duty to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in seven states. They’re providing help at shelters, damage assessments, debris clearance, search and rescue and delivery of supplies and equipment according to a release from U.S. Department of Defense.

The guardsmen also are supporting first responders and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, in New York, Massachusetts, Virginia, New Jersey, Delaware, Connecticut and Maryland.

Department of Defense Other Actions

  • Staged four medium rotary wing utility aircraft and four medium rotary wing Search and Rescue aircraft at Hanscom AFB, MA, for potential logistical and search and rescue operations along the coasts of MA, CT, and RI in support of FEMA.
  •  Approved a request for District of Columbia National Guard support for traffic control points and high-water evacuations.
  • Made Department of Defense installations throughout the North East available as requested by FEMA – including Westover Air Reserve Base, MA; Joint Base McGuire-Dix, Lakehurst, NJ; and Ft. Devens, MA.
  • Placed medium- and heavy-lift helicopters, para-rescue swimmers, and aerial refueling aircraft on 24-hour prepare-to-deploy status in response to anticipated FEMA requests to mitigate or respond to the effects of the storm.

On Oct. 29,  Army Gen. Frank J. Grass, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, was in dawn-to-dusk meetings with senior National Guard leaders, FEMA officials, the adjutants general and the Secretary of Defense, reported the American Forces Press Service. That all-out effort was continuing today.

“We had to be ready to respond big and fast — so the National Guard ramped up in multiple states this weekend preparing to support local, state and federal civilian authorities,” Grass told the Armed Forces Press. “We are part of a whole-of-government response to support state, local and federal agencies tackling the effects of this storm.”

Hurricane Sandy Moves Military Crews, Aircraft to Safety

One of two C-17 Globemaster III aircraft that moved the crew and equipment from the 621st Contingency Response Wing based in New Jersey to Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base so they could remain on alert and able to respond at a moment’s notice.

Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base has become a temporary home for several military aircraft and crews moved out of the path of Hurricane Sandy.

The New Jersey based 621st Contingency Response Wing is a readiness group responsible for assessments and opening up air bases and landing strips after a disaster.

Air Force Col. Kevin Oliver is in charge of the 60 member team temporarily moved from their joint base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey.

“Ironically, we brought with us the capability to live anywhere in a field, but if we broke out all of our tents then our response time would increase,” Oliver said. “So, in order to keep everyone together, we’re staying in one of the local hotels which is a great experience.”

An interior sot of the equipment loaded inside the C-17 Globemaster which is capable of carrying 18 Air Force pallets or in civilian terms up to six city buses.

Oliver said other parts of their Contingency Response Group stayed put at their bases in Virginia and Kentucky. He expects his team will remain at MacDill only a few days.

Among the crew who arrived at MacDill Sunday is Captain Brian Cooper, a maintenance officer and crew commander. He’s a native of New Jersey and remembers riding out such storms most recently Hurricane Irene 2011.

“Last hurricane was Irene. My wife and I had just gotten a puppy and we sent her and the dog up to New York with her family so they were all together and safe,” Cooper said. “This one, almost exactly a year later, we have a baby on the way and a bigger puppy. So now, they’re up with her parents but they’re still safe.”

Many of the transplanted crew is using social media to stay in touch with their families and get photos of the storm.

Capt. Brian Cooper is a maintenance officer, crew commander and a member of the assessment team with the 621st Contingency Response Wing at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey.

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