By Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen
New Jersey Air National Guard
BRICK, N.J. (11/8/12) - New Jersey Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Carl Hilpl is standing with the rest of the electric crew in the parking lot of the Ocean County Medical Center in Brick, N.J.
The temperature has fallen to 33 degrees and the rain is turning to snow. Nor'easter Athena will soon be dumping snow, rain, high winds and tidal surges on an area already hard hit by Hurricane Sandy.
It's day 10 of the New Jersey National Guard's mobilization for Hurricane Sandy.
Hilpl, along with Tech. Sgt. Nate Worthy and Staff Sgts. Robert Jentsch and Pete Tomos, all aircraft electricians from the 108th Wing, New Jersey Air National Guard, have been called out to fix a generator at the hospital.
Normally, these Airmen work on the electrical systems of a KC-135R Stratotanker air refueling aircraft.
Yet, when the state of emergency came, they worked just as well fixing electrical systems in shelters, schools hospitals – wherever their skills were needed.
This is the nature of the National Guard.
When they arrive, the team of Citizen-Airmen find out that emergency personnel who called them to take care of a light pole are afraid it will fall on the surrounding tents during the upcoming storm.
Since Hilpl and his team have come on duty, they have been hooking up generators and making sure they were compatible with existing electrical systems.
At the Long Branch Middle School shelter, their work kept the lights on.
Before arriving at the hospital, Hilpl was able to get the gas-fired generator at Veterans Memorial Middle School in Brick working.
But it isn't just about generators. At one point, Hilpl went out to check on the power at the home of an elderly couple. The husband was suffering from leukemia and the wife has cancer.
Hilpl discovered that the wife was running out of life-giving oxygen.
For the next several days, every 12 hours, Hilpl took new oxygen tanks to their home.
Not part of his training as an aircraft electrician, but certainly a duty as a National Guard member.
Back at the hospital, a cutting torch is brought in. Hilpl and team have removed the cover at the base of the light pole and he begins to cut the bolts off.
After they finish, Hilpl, Worthy, Jentsch and Tomos will climb into their up-armored high mobility multi-purpose wheeled vehicle and move on to the next generator.
For them, the job is more than merely keeping the lights on.