Hurricane relief mission hits home with N.J. Reservists

  • Published
  • By Shawn J. Jones
  • 514th Air Mobility Wing public affairs
After the historic Hurricane Sandy battered New York and New Jersey, Airmen from across the country answered the call for help, but for the Airmen of one Reserve wing, those calls for help were coming from friends, family and neighbors.

Most of the Airmen assigned to the 514th Air Mobility Wing at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., live in or near the areas most devastated by  the storm.

Their knowledge of the hurricane is firsthand. Some watched flood waters bubble through their floorboards. Others watched stalwart trees snap like twigs. Most lost electrical power, and many lost much more.

Those who escaped the worst of the hurricane, were left wondering how best to help. One of those Airmen was Tech. Sgt. Ryan Jackson, a loadmaster with the 732nd Airlift Squadron.

"Feeling personally overwhelmed with so much loss and help needed, I felt I could make the greatest impact by doing what I was trained to do: load and transport vehicles, personnel and equipment via cargo aircraft," he said.

Jackson and four other Airmen from the squadron volunteered to fly hurricane relief missions. Their first relief mission was to Phoenix, Ariz., Nov. 2, to pick up and transport 67,000 pounds of resources to help restore electrical power.

The Airmen loaded and chained two large boom trucks into the cargo hold of their C-17 Globemaster III. The crew then flew the trucks and their drivers,  both from a Phoenix-based electrical utility company, to Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, N.Y. From there, the drivers took the trucks to Long Island, N.Y., where they were used to repair downed power lines.

The relief mission was a departure from the aircrew's usual mission of ferrying troops and equipment back and forth from the Middle East and Afghanistan. One of the air crew's pilots, Capt. Holly Nelson, said she understands the significance of her regular duties, but the relief mission was special because the hurricane had hit so close to home.

"It was rewarding to help people on home soil and to help provide immediate relief that can help Americans directly," she said.

Although mobility Airmen have had an essential role in recovery efforts, they haven't been acting alone. They've joined fellow service members in working side-by-side with many federal, state and local mission partners.

Capt. Corey DeWaters, a pilot who flew with Nelson and Jackson, said he feels fortunate to play a key role in the total relief effort.

"It's great to live and serve in a country that cares enough about its citizens to do whatever it takes to help, regardless of cost or difficulty, and that has the resources to bring immediate relief to those suffering," he said.