News>Guardsmen send supplies to storm-stricken communities
West Virginia Air National Guard members assigned to the 167th Airlift Wing load pallets of blankets destined for use by Hurricane Sandy victims onto a C-130 cargo aircraft at Shepherd Field Air National Guard Base in Martinsburg, W.Va., Nov. 3, 2012. A total of 25,000 blankets were flown from the base to John F. Kennedy Airport in New York. (West Virginia Air National Guard photo by 2nd Lt. Stacy Gault)
by Staff Sgt. Sherree Grebenstein
167th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
11/5/2012 - SHEPHERD FIELD AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, W.Va. (AFNS) -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency tapped the West Virginia Air National Guard's 167th Airlift Wing here as a staging area to push out much-needed relief supplies to West Virginia and East Coast residents hit hard by Superstorm Sandy
Although FEMA's stay at the Martinsburg base was brief -- officially ceasing its operations here on the evening of Nov. 3 -- the 167th demonstrated its vital importance in providing resources, manpower and an ideal locale to headquarter the humanitarian aid mission from in this region of the state.
FEMA operations here spun up at the beginning of the month with airmen and soldiers from the West Virginia National Guard working in tandem to ensure that emergency supplies trucked in from around the country were distributed to those in need. Some areas of West Virginia reportedly received up to 80 inches of snow.
According to Capt. Christopher T. Tusing, installation deployment officer for the 167th Airlift Wing, the unit's airmen were assigned to work on the logistical mission of unloading water and food from FEMA trailers and loading them onto Army Guard vehicles destined for some of the hardest hit communities in the state.
"The 167th Airlift Wing provided over 56 airmen in all to support emerging Hurricane Sandy response over the last week, in direct collaboration with West Virginia Army National Guardsmen and FEMA," Tusing said.
"Our members quickly stepped up, coordinating operations with the West Virginia Joint Operations Center in Charleston," he said. "We provided community assessment teams and hands-on load teams to facilitate the effective distribution of numerous pallets of Meals Ready to Eat and water, and provided aide to fellow West Virginians in need."
The collaboration "continues to illustrate the dedication and commitment levels of the men and women who serve in the joint operating environment of the West Virginia National Guard," Tusing said.
Col. Roger L. Nye, commander of the 167th Airlift Wing, said he was impressed with how West Virginia's Air and Army National Guard components came together to assist FEMA in providing aid to those in need.
Operation Big Sandy Superstorm tested the mettle of the wing's airmen and they were up to the challenge, Nye said.
"They responded with gusto and dedication and determination to do this mission safely and to do it right," Nye said of the 167th's airmen. "Probably one of the greatest satisfactions that we get out of this job is helping others."
Liaison officer teams from the wing were also sent to West Virginia's Berkeley, Morgan and Jefferson counties. Each team consisted of three airmen who assisted each county in its Emergency Operations Center. One of the teams was later dispatched to Upshur County.
"They [the teams] stepped forward as the wing always does and went to be a part of the solution," Nye said of the unit's liaison teams.
Even as FEMA began to wind down its operations on base the evening of Nov. 3, the commander said, the wing received notice that trucks carrying a total of 25,000 blankets would soon be rolling in. Some C-130 cargo aircraft from Little Rock, Ark., would fly them to New York.
Wing airmen worked into the night to load the blankets onto the C-130s. By dawn, the aircraft were en route to John F. Kennedy Airport.
"They loaded up and went before daybreak, before the rest of the world was awake," Nye said. "Those airplanes are doing triple shuttles."
Whether handling cargo or working another support mission, Nye said the 167th Airlift Wing's airmen should be proud of their accomplishments.
"Everything that happens on this base supports the mission, whatever it is at that time," he noted. "The folks that are at the tip of the spear -- whatever that spear may look like that day -- can't do the job they do without the support of everyone behind them."
The 167th's effort in its support role was outstanding, Nye said. When asked how he would describe the past week, the commander said one word "satisfaction" could best convey his feeling.
"It's been very satisfying," Nye said. "Even though we are tired, we know that we are helping our fellow Americans and it feels good."