By Staff Sgt. Jon SoucyDecember 15, 2008
ARLINGTON, Va. (Army News Service, Dec. 15, 2008) - A round of winter storms that left several northeastern states covered in ice has kept many National Guard units busy over the weekend.
As of Sunday, almost 900 Guard members were on duty clearing debris, providing power generation, water, security, shelter and evacuations throughout the northwestern part of Massachusetts, which was hardest hit by the storms.
The storms, which hit Massachusetts and New Hampshire Dec. 12, brought down trees, closed schools and left thousands of residents without power.
As a result, nine counties in Massachusetts were declared federal emergency areas by President George Bush, and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick called members of the Massachusetts National Guard to state active duty.
"All of the resources at our disposal have been made available to try to get the roads clear and power restored," said Patrick.
Col. Paul Smith was tasked to command Operation Big Ice, which is being supported by elements of the 51st Troop Command, 79th Troop command, 101st engineers, 181st Infantry, 182nd Cavalry, 379th Engineers and the Brigade Support Battalion from the Massachusetts Army Guard; as well as the 212th Engineering Installation Squadron, the 102nd Fighter Wing (FW) and the 104th FW from the Air Guard.
The Massachusetts Guard currently has 42 storm-related missions ongoing and 12 missions completed, including helping out at local shelters.
"We're here to provide support to the shelter and help reassure people," said Capt. John Quinn, of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 181st Infantry Regiment based in Worcester, Mass. "Morale is high, and the Soldiers are happy to be helping out the community."
In New Hampshire, more than 340 Guardmembers, including 150 from the 157th Air Refueling Wing at Pease Air National Guard Base, were called up as a result of the storm. Those Soldiers and Airmen have been distributing blankets and other necessities as well as performing house-to-house checks.
The Guard members will stay on duty in the Northeast assisting local civilian authorities with clean-up efforts.
"We'll be here however long they need us," said 1st Lt. Robert Charbonnier of the Massachusetts National Guard.
In Hawaii, 11 National Guard Soldiers are clearing debris and distributing food and water in the Waipahu area of Oahu after a severe storm with heavy rains and high winds resulted in flooding Dec. 10.
(Army Staff Sgt. Jon Soucy writes for the National Guard Bureau)