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    NJ National Guard Soldiers Rescue Nine Stranded Motorists In Wake of Hurricane Ida

    NJ National Guard Soldiers Rescue Nine Stranded Motorists In Wake of Hurricane Ida

    Photo By Senior Master Sgt. Matt Hecht | U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Anthony Marotta stands for a portrait at the New Jersey National...... read more read more



    Story by Master Sgt. Matt Hecht 

    New Jersey National Guard   

    Hurricane Ida caused extensive damage as a Category 4 Atlantic Hurricane in Louisiana, and even as the system was downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone, it caused catastrophic flooding in the Northeastern United States.

    As the hurricane was making landfall, planning was underway at the New Jersey Army National Guard’s Army Aviation Support Facility to either prepare for sending troops to assist the Southern U.S., or to support local authorities with weather-related events here in New Jersey.

    A request for assistance came early in the morning on Sept. 2: motorists were stranded in rising floodwaters near Somerset, N.J.

    Maintenance teams, crew chiefs, and pilots with Detachment 2, C Company, 1-171st General Support Aviation Battalion (MEDEVAC) and the 1-150th Assault Helicopter Battalion rushed to the facility, located on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, and within two hours they had a hoist-capable UH-60L Black Hawk off the ground, searching for survivors.

    It wasn’t long into the flight when the crew of ROGUE20 saw their first flood victims.

    “This was the first actual hoist rescue ever done by the New Jersey Army National Guard in New Jersey,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Quentin Hastings, a Black Hawk pilot with the 1-171st. “We had gotten word that there were people in the water on top of their cars, and in just a few minutes we started finding people.”

    Hastings and his co-pilot, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Albert Sbarro, took turns piloting and spotting for threats to the aircraft.

    The ROGUE20 crew had to navigate several obstacles to put their flight medic into position, including high-tension power lines, rushing water, and the small sizes of the targets.

    “We were only searching for about four or five minutes when we saw cars in rapid moving water that boats couldn’t reach,” said Staff Sgt. Michael Toth, a flight medic with the 1-171st. “It was tricky because we normally train from 90 to 100 feet, but because of the downwash from the helicopter we did the hoists from between 140 to 150 feet, it was quite a ride.”

    ROGUE20 picked up five stranded motorists with the hoist, and four more by landing on a bridge that was surrounded by water.

    While Toth was riding on the hoist, it was operated by Black Hawk crew chiefs Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Witts and Staff Sgt. Anthony Marotta.

    “I was glad to be a part of it, and it was a great feeling to see the looks on the faces of the people we helped pull up,” said Witts. “The first woman we got onboard had been on her car for about ten hours, so she was exhausted, and relieved.”

    Once the ROGUE20 crew had their rescues on board, they flew them to a local triage site set up with waiting ambulance crews on high ground.

    A UH-72 Lakota from New Jersey’s 1-224th Security and Support Battalion also showed up on scene to provide surveillance for the rescue crews, and New Jersey State Police helicopters also conducted numerous hoist rescues in the area.

    “We stood up the MEDEVAC mission, and less than two years after that we deployed to Afghanistan, and had a successful combat tour for nine months in-country. Then we came back home, and have been training for this exact scenario,” said Hastings.

    “They train for this every day,” said 1st Lt. Larissa Fluegel, commander of Det. 2, C Co., 1-171st. “The fact that they used their skills to benefit the people in our own communities is really incredible. The National Guard is Always Ready, Always There.”



    Date Taken: 09.14.2021
    Date Posted: 09.15.2021 13:26
    Story ID: 405324

    Web Views: 1,181
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