By Master Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa
Florida National Guard Public Affairs
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. (Nov. 5, 2012) – Florida Army National Guard aviators are assisting with the Hurricane Sandy relief efforts in the Northeast, joining the more than 9,100 Guard members who are supporting the recovery.
Soldiers from Florida's Detachment 1, Company H, 171st Aviation, are flying a C-23 Sherpa fixed-wing aircraft in support of recovery operations after the devastating storm struck in late October. The aircrew's mission is to provide airlift support for Operational Support Airlift Command (OSACOM).
The C-23 is a fixed wing aircraft capable of transporting cargo and personnel for a variety of missions. The C-23 Sherpa – one of two in the Florida National Guard – supports both federal operations overseas and domestic operations here in the United States.
“They are the only Sherpa crew up there providing fixed-wing support,” said Detachment 1's Chief Warrant Officer Joseph Langlois, who is monitoring the Sherpa mission from the unit's base in Brooksville, Fla. “We love supporting missions, especially when it is a humanitarian mission. It is satisfying when you get the mission done.”
According to Langlois, “Team Sherpa” left Florida on Nov. 2, and has been operating out of Davison Army Airfield at Fort Belvoir, Va. By Nov. 4, the Sherpa had already transported 6,500 pounds of Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) to Farmindale, N.Y., as part of the relief efforts.
Langlois said the MRE transport mission was originally a CH-47 Chinook mission, but due to aircraft issues the Florida Sherpa was called in to make sure the supplies arrived on time.
“Our Team Sherpa took care of it,” he said. “They were ready to help out.”
The Sherpa unit deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom/New Dawn in 2004, 2007 and 2010.
Florida C-23 crews have been instrumental in crisis response in the past; in June 2010 the Florida Army National Guard flew the aircraft over the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, taking Fish and Wildlife experts over the beaches of Florida's panhandle to spot encroaching oil slicks.
“Our aircraft is a very valuable and immediate response (asset) to any natural disaster, like fires, floods or hurricanes,” Langlois explained. “We are low-cost, very efficient and very effective. This is something we like doing as not only individuals, but as a detachment. We get the mission done.”
Detachment 1 was honored earlier this year by the Operational Support Airlift Agency (OSAA) with its unit of the year award for the eastern region.