Staff Sgt. Nathan Wojtkowiak, Tech. Sgt. Kevin Pawlukovich and Staff Sgt. Jacob Qualiana, assigned to the 107th Attack Wing, pause from keeping entrances clear at Erie Community South Campus warming station in Orchard Park, New York, Jan. 15, 2024. Seasonally activated warming stations established around Western New York provide stranded and homeless civilians refuge from extreme winter conditions. Air National Guard courtesy photo.
Staff Sgt. Nathan Wojtkowiak, Tech. Sgt. Kevin Pawlukovich and Staff Sgt. Jacob Qualiana, assigned to the 107th Attack Wing, pause from keeping entrances clear at Erie Community South Campus warming station in Orchard Park, New York, Jan. 15, 2024. Seasonally activated warming stations established around Western New York provide stranded and homeless civilians refuge from extreme winter conditions. Air National Guard courtesy photo. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

BUFFALO, N.Y. – The New York National Guard activated 132 Soldiers and Airmen to help local officials deal with a winter storm that hit Buffalo the weekend of Jan. 13-15.

The storm dumped 17 inches of snow on the region, with temperatures as low as 9 degrees Fahrenheit and winds up to 40 mph.

Gov. Kathy Hochul mobilized the New York National Guard personnel while declaring a state of emergency in western New York and closing roads in the area.

Ninety-six Soldiers and 36 Airmen volunteered for the weekend mission. The 107th Attack Wing, 2nd Squadron 101st Cavalry, 152nd Engineer Support Company and the 105th Military Police Company provided 28 vehicles to support the mission.

The Soldiers and Airmen were configured as general-purpose immediate response forces.

Their main mission was to staff and monitor three warming stations established at Erie Community College South Campus, Windom Elementary School and Orchard Park Middle School. The stations were stocked with cots, blankets and water.

“These shelters can have a huge impact during weather like this,” said Capt. Kathleen Urtz, the officer in charge of the 107th‘s contingent. “If someone ends up stranded or homeless, it could mean the difference between life and death.”

Guard members who were on their first emergency response mission said they appreciated the chance to serve their community.

Airman 1st Class Emmanuel Akanmu, a member of the 107th’s Medical Group, said the massive snowstorm that hit Buffalo over Christmas in 2022 and resulted in the deaths of 47 people was on his mind when he was asked to volunteer for the mission.

“After last year’s tragedy, I couldn't say no, knowing something like that could potentially happen again,” he said. “I was primarily on standby and while I didn't end up getting called up, I didn't mind.”

For seasoned Guardsmen, helping during the storm was all in a day’s work, according to Tech Sgt. Alexander Lawson.

Lawson, also assigned to 107 Medical Group, was in charge of the team supporting the shelter at Orchard Park Middle School, supporting Red Cross Operations, clearing access points of snow and keeping community members safe.

“We made the best of it and overall, we were happy to support the community and do what we could to ensure those who were stranded or lost power had a safe and warm place to go,” Lawson said.

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