By Capt. Jefferson S. Heiland
103rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
RENTSCHLER FIELD, East Hartford, Conn. (11/6/12) - About 850 members of the Connecticut Army and Air National Guard have been helping in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
They were called up for state active duty Oct. 31.
Guard members were involved with initial emergency response preparations as early as Oct. 27 in preparation for a variety of missions, including brush cleanup with chainsaw crews, dropping off supplies and generators and search-and-rescue missions.
Connecticut Airmen and Soldiers also were called to Rentschler Field to operate a commodities distribution center. The commodities, water bottles and meals-ready-to-eat, are being distributed to various towns in Connecticut that requested emergency assistance. Truckloads are being distributed throughout the state with the focus on the hardest-hit areas along the shoreline and Fairfield County.
With a potential Nor'easter expected mid-week that may complicate matters, 24-hour operations at the distribution center will continue, according to Col. Roy Walton, the 103rd Mission Support Group commander.
"It's been long days and a lot of hard work, but I can't say enough about the commitment and dedication that our Airmen and Soldiers have displayed here this week," Walton said. "I think it really says a lot about the unique relationship that our guardsmen have with the local communities ... this is exactly the type of mission that highlights how important the National Guard is when we can leverage our resources for the state mission."
Day-shift operations at Rentschler Field were run by Connecticut's ANG members that included expert forklift operators from the 103rd Logistic Readiness Squadron.
"I think most people feel good when they help somebody," said Senior Master Sgt. Jay Fournier, 103rd LRS, who was part of the operations at Rentschler Field. "This is really what we joined [the Guard] for ... to help people in need."
Other members of the 103rd Airlift Wing assisted Milford firefighters who responded to many calls near the shore, which included a call for a house that had collapsed. The fire department had to send divers into the water to shut off gas lines for the fallen home and about five other neighboring homes.
Senior Airman Eric Lutz, 103rd Maintenance Squadron, was one of the Airmen involved in the mission.
"(Working) hands-on with the civilian emergency response has been amazing," he said. "It feels good to help the community."