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NY Army Guard Helicopters Head to Florida to Assist in Irma Response

nyguardSeptember 11, 2017
Story by Eric Durr
New York National Guard

LATHAM, N.Y.--Ten New York Army National Guard UH-60 helicopters and 55 Soldiers left for Jacksonville, Florida on Monday, Sept. 11 as part of the ongoing National Guard response to Hurricane Irma.

The aircraft came from Army Aviation Support Facilities in Rochester N.Y., Latham, N.Y. which is near Albany, and Ronkonkoma on Long Island. Three aircraft came from Rochester, four from Long Island, and three from Latham.

The aircraft are capable of moving supplies or personnel from confined locations or in areas with limited access. Six of the ten helicopters are equipped with hoists.

The Soldiers on the mission are assigned to Alpha and Bravo companies of the 3rd Battalion, 142nd Aviation, based in Latham and Ronkonkoma, respectively, and Charlie Company (Medical Evacuation) of the 1st Battalion, 171st Aviation in Rochester.

The aircraft were slated to fly to Richmond, Virginia on Monday, where they will conduct maintenance and get further information on the situation in Florida, according to Major Paul Baille, the executive officer of the 3rd Battalion, 142nd Aviation.

Their mission could start out being search and rescue, and will then likely shift to flying critical personnel and supplies and then general airborne transportation, Baille explained.

Some of the Soldiers who are part of the mission flew missions along the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina and others have experience in flying missions following Superstorm Sandy in 2012 and Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, said Baille, who served during Katrina as an aviation liaison officer.

Capt. Forrest Thrush, a member of A Co. 3-142nd Aviation, said that he would take his cue from the unit members who had experience flying in support of previous weather emergencies. “I’ll learn from them,” Thrush said.

Once the New York helicopters arrive in Florida they will be missioned by the Florida National Guard which will organize aviation task forces, Baille said.

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo said the deployment of these Army National Guard assets, along with Air National Guard teams which deployed to Puerto Rico last week, are an example of Americans helping each other.

"As Hurricane Irma bears down on Florida and its neighbors, New York will continue to do all it can to provide resources and assistance to these affected communities," Cuomo said. "When disaster and devastation have visited New York, our brothers and sisters from across the nation stood by us and we will do the same for our friends in need."

On Sept. 7 the New York Air National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing deployed 130 Airmen with three HH-60 Pave Hawk rescue helicopters and two HC-130 search and rescue aircraft. The helicopters and Airmen, who are based at Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton Beach, N.Y. were carried in two C-17s assigned to the 105th Airlift Wing from Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, N.Y.

The team based out of San Juan, Puerto Rico and conducted missions in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The wing also conducted evacuation operations on the island of St. Maarten in conjunction with airlift wings from Puerto Rico and Kentucky. Using six aircraft, the three wings moved 1,582 Americans from the joint French and Dutch administered island to Puerto Rico so they could return home.

On Monday, Sept. 11 the wing moved from Puerto Rico to Florida to support operations in that state if required.

The 106th Rescue Wing also deployed a third HC-130 from Gabreski Air National Guard Base on Monday, September 11 to transport additional response personnel from the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Special Tactics Squadron to Florida.

The New York Air National Guard’s 105th Airlift Wing also moved a Joint Incident Site Communications Capability (JISCC) system to Mississippi on Sunday, Sept. 10. The JISCC system allows Airmen to rapidly set up internet, voice over IP and other communications capabilities during natural and manmade disasters. The system was staged in Mississippi to await movement into Florida if required.

And on Saturday, Sept. 9, a C-130 assigned to the New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing in Stratton Air National Guard Base, outside Schenectady. N.Y. flew to St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands where hurricane damage was particularly severe with medical supplies and emergency food rations, returning to New York on Sunday.          

This article was originally found here.