CLAY NATIONAL GUARD CENTER, Marietta, Ga., Nov. 15, 2012 – Georgia Army Guard heavy lift helicopters and crews sent to assist with the massive relief mounted in the wake of superstorm Sandy are back home now at Savannah’s Hunter Army Airfield – though recovery efforts in places like New York, New Jersey and Connecticut continue to help residents get their lives back to some sense of normalcy.
“Moving critical supplies and people needed to keep the relief and recovery efforts going, and getting needed food and water supplies to Sandy’s victims, is the kind of mission we train all the time to do to support civil authorities during times of national crisis,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Charles Woodward. “Coordination for an operation like this between the Guard, the active duty assets engaged by the Department of Defense, and New York and New Jersey’s governments is by no means an easy task, but in the end it all came together and worked out right.”
Woodward, who commands Savannah’s Detachment 2, Company B, 935th Aviation Support Battalion, oversaw the New York missions flown by one of the CH-47F Chinooks from Savannah’s Detachment 1, Company B, 169th General Support Aviation Brigade. Another Georgia Guard Chinook, which flew missions in support of relief efforts in New Jersey, was piloted by Chief Warrant Officer 3 William Johnson, the 169th’s operations officer and Chief Warrant Officer 4 Timothy Ladson, the unit’s training officer and one of its instructor pilots.
Johnson and Ladson, who were conducting flight training, were unavailable for comment.
The trio, their crews and aircraft operated as part of Operation Sandy from Oct. 30 to Nov. 8, with two aircraft returning home Nov. 8 from New Jersey, the third arriving from New York and touching down at Hunter two days later.
Hurricane Sandy gained superstorm status after merging with two other weather systems, killing more than 100 people in 10 states as a result. While Sandy wrought havoc in states like Connecticut, the worst of its fury was felt in New York and New Jersey where beach towns were flooded and power to thousands of homes and businesses were knocked out. Electrical power to more than two million New York customers alone was interrupted.
Georgia’s Chinooks and aircrews (about 20 personnel) flew support missions out of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst – a combination of McGuire Air Force Base, the Army’s Fort Dix, and Naval Air Engineering Station Lakehurst in New Jersey, established in 2009. They were among the 14 Army Chinooks, UH-60 Black Hawks, UH-72A Lakotas and an Air Guard HH-60 Pave Hawk rescue helo and crews that conducted more than 200 flight hours in moving priority supplies and personnel where they were needed not long after superstorm Sandy struck, and again after a severe winter storm blanketed the Northeast with snow and nearly freezing temperatures.
The Georgia contingent, part of the National Guard’s Task Force Guardian 1, had staged out of a flight facility in Raleigh, N.C., before moving north and conducting operations.
According to statistics provided to the Ga. DoD Joint Operations Center by Capt. Michael Viskup, assistant air operations officer for Marietta’s 78th Aviation Troop Command (the 169th’s main headquarters here at Clay), Woodward and his fellow aviators, for six of the ten days they were gone:
- Flew 18 sorties for a total estimated 62.9 flight hours
- Transported 211 emergency response and other personnel
- Moved more than 22,000 pounds of cargo
Woodward, who participated in similar missions during relief and recovery efforts in 2005 when Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Gulf coast, says one of the big differences he saw was the accessibility
“Flood waters during Katrina, it seemed, isolated more people, thereby calling for more use of air assets for extraction,” he explained. “With Sandy, ground approaches to those places where flooding took place – while most certainly as destructive – didn’t seem to hamper the use of vehicle recovery assets in those areas as badly.”
While Georgia’s role in Operation Sandy has ended, the aircrews and machines continue training for whatever challenge Mother Nature – and man – might next decide to throw their way.
“Whether that happens here at home or out of state, we’re ready to assist wherever disaster strikes,” Woodward said. “Being ‘always ready, always there,’ isn’t just something we say to impress people. It’s something we’re seriously committed to each and every day.”
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Roy Henry
Public Affairs Office
Georgia Department of Defense
Additional photos by Air Force Staff Sgt. David Carbajal
and Tech. Sgt Brian Christiansen, Public Affairs, North Carolina National Guard
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