Guard Responds to Winter Storm in Northeast
By Army Staff Sgt. Jon Soucy
Special to American Forces Press Service
ARLINGTON, Va., Dec. 15, 2008 A round of winter storms that left several northeastern states covered in ice kept many National Guard units busy over the weekend.
Army Spc. Arik Johnson, a Massachusetts National Guard construction equipment operator, cuts a fallen tree with a chainsaw in Phillipston, Mass., Dec. 14, 2008. After a storm, trees covered with ice began falling onto power lines, leaving the town’s 900 homes without electricity. The 379th Engineer Company was mobilized to cut down trees and clear roads so utility companies could begin trying to restore power to the town. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. James C. Lally
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The storms, which hit Massachusetts and New Hampshire on Dec. 12, brought down trees, closed schools and left thousands of residents without power.
As a result, President George W. Bush declared nine counties in Massachusetts federal emergency areas, and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick called members of the Massachusetts National Guard to state active duty.
Nearly 900 Guard members were on duty yesterday clearing debris, providing power generation, water, security, shelter and evacuations throughout the northwestern part of the state, which was hardest hit by the storms.
"All of the resources at our disposal have been made available to try to get the roads clear and power restored," Patrick said.
Army Col. Paul Smith was tasked to command “Operation Big Ice,” 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 and the 104th FW from the Air Guard.
The Massachusetts Guard 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 Army 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 Guard members, including 150 from the 157th Air Refueling Wing at Pease Air National Guard Base, were called up as a result of the storm. 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,” Army 1st Lt. Robert Charbonnier of the Massachusetts National Guard said.
Elsewhere, 11 National Guard soldiers are clearing debris and distributing food and water in the Waipahu area of Oahu, Hawaii, after a severe storm with heavy rains and high winds resulted in flooding Dec. 10.
(Army Staff Sgt. Jon Soucy serves with the National Guard Bureau.)