By Eric Durr, New York State Division of Military & Naval AffairsAugust 29, 2011
LATHAM, N.Y. (Army News Service, Aug. 29, 2011) -- While local governments across New York were assessing the impact of Hurricane Irene, the focus of effort for the New York Army and Air National Guard shifted from Long Island and New York City to the mountain towns in Greene and Schoharie counties.
New York Army National Guard troops from the 204th Engineer Battalion and the 42nd Infantry Division used their Humvees and light medium tactical vehicles to rescue 18 people trapped in their homes by the rising flood waters of Schoharie Creek in North Blenheim. In Middleburgh, just up the river, another two citizens were rescued from high flood waters by Guard troops.
In the Greene County ski town of Windham, Guard Soldiers from the 1156th Engineer Company rescued six from houses surrounded by rising flood waters.
On Sunday night as flood waters rose in the Catskills the New York Army National Guard sent 90 troops to Greene County and 71 to Schoharie County. Another 200 engineering troops were on standby in Binghamton and Walton, while 165 Airmen were alerted at Stratton Air National Guard Base near Schenectady and 60 members of the New York Naval Militia were told to report to that location as well.
Troops from the Naval Militia assisted in erecting a sandbag wall around the Schenectady sewage treatment plant to preventing flooding by the Mohawk River.
On Monday morning, as the sun came out following a day of rain, the New York Air National Guard dispatched three HH-60 Pave Hawk search and rescue helicopters from the 106th Rescue Wing to Schoharie County to conduct search and rescue missions at the direction of local officials.
The helicopters and their air crews are normally stationed at Gabreski Air National Guard base at Westhampton Beach on Long Island. The aircraft were moved to Fort Drum, near Watertown, when Hurricane Irene approached Long Island. Instead of recovering directly to Long Island after Irene passed over, the helicopters, and 12 para-rescuemen moved to the Army National Guard flight facility at the Albany International Airport to conduct missions in the Catskill Mountains.
Other helicopters were employed to conduct damage reconnaissance flights in the Hudson Valley, move members of the media into the area so they could cover storm recovery efforts, and carry rations from Fort Drum to troops deployed in downstate New York.
By Monday morning, the New York Army National Guard had just over 2,000 troops on duty while 280 members of the New York Air National Guard had been activated. A couple of hundred other Airmen were on standby to be called up at locations across the state.
In addition, 114 members of the New York Guard, the state's volunteer defense force, and 90 members of the New York Naval Militia were on duty.