News: New York National Guard Hurricane Sandy relief requires massive logistics effort
Story by Eric Durr
NEW YORK, N.Y. — Almost 4,000 troops, operating more than 1,300 trucks and Humvees, have delivered 2.5 million emergency meals and 150,000 blankets to storm victims, and fueled more than 13,000 city vehicles, while visiting more than 12,000 homes and apartments to check on residents, since Hurricane Sandy hit the night of Oct. 29.
The New York National Guard response to Hurricane Sandy’s path of destruction on Long Island and New York has been a massive logistics operation, said Col. Patrick Center, the director of logistics for the New York National Guard.
A team of 400 National Guard soldiers and airmen used every item in the logistics tool kit to feed, fuel and house the 3,700 troops involved directly in the response mission, while also providing fuel directly to New York City government vehicles, and Long Island Power Authority equipment, Center said.
The sustainers moved supplies on 27 long-haul tractor-trailers, flown priority goods in two Ch-47 Chinook heavy lift helicopters (one loaned from Georgia) and even employed two C-17s to haul specially modified HMETT fuel tankers from Albany to New York City when drivers were not available.
Aircraft were used for priority supply missions and when there were not enough drivers on hand to move items.
Working with a Rome, N.Y., contractor called Deployed Resources, the New York National Guard logisticians oversaw the establishment of a Logistics Support Area at historic Floyd Bennett Field in Queens, N.Y., which has heated living tents, shower and laundry facilities, and two dining facilities and can house 2,000 troops. A 54-person mayor’s cell from the 153rd Troop Command runs the LSA, which also includes a clinic staffed by Army and Air Guard medical personnel.
Helicopter air traffic at Floyd Bennett Field, which was also being used by New York City Police Department aircraft and active-duty aircraft as well as Guard helicopters, was so congested that eight air controllers from the New York Air National Guard’s 174th Attack Wing were brought in to help manage the air space.
“In the urgency for us to be responsive, and to be on site, and on time, and to deliver the refueling and other support this has been unmatched,” Center said.
The numbers tell the story.
In August and September 2011 the New York National Guard employed a force of just under 2,400 Guard soldiers and airmen to respond to Tropical Storms Lee and Irene.
At its peak the Operation Sandy Force, which included 750 Guard troops from Delaware, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kansas, Ohio, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, had almost 5,000 troops committed, including more than 600 active-duty Marines, soldiers and sailors.
In the response to Irene and Lee the New York National Guard spent $500,000 on supplies.
As of Nov. 9, the New York National Guard’s committed more than $3 million to supply purchases — safety vests and equipment, 10,000 disposable gloves to use in debris clean up, food, water, MREs, 8,000 spare uniforms, fuel — and expects to spend more, said Capt. Katherine Lettko, the logistics management specialist for the New York National.
On Nov. 10, the New York National Guard logistics teams had 79,560 MREs on hand and 352,632 bottles of water just to supply the force. More than 128,000 gallons of fuel had been used to keep the military vehicles running.
Along with fueling more than 13,000 government vehicles with fuel from FEMA — using 13 Air National Guard fuel trucks and another 12 from the Army — the logistics team had also filled thousands of gas cans for use in refueling generators, Center said.
More than 3,700 cots have been issued out to Guard soldiers sleeping in armories and at the Floyd Bennett Field LSA.
More than 11,000 cubic yards of debris has been removed and carted away.
And 14 Army and Air National Guard helicopters — UH-60 Black Hawk, HH-60 Pavehawk rescue helicopters, UH-72 Light Utility Helicopters, and CH-47 Chinooks — have flown 255 hours of missions.
Down at the local level the soldiers of the 369th Sustainment Brigade have been delivering meals to anywhere from 12 to 18 supply points daily, while also moving 53 truckloads of corporate-donated goods to places they can be used.
They’ve also done unique missions, like moving 210 specially designed geriatric hospital beds, and the furniture needed to set up Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster assistance centers.
National Guard soldiers and airmen have also visited more than 12,000 apartments and houses to conduct safety and health checks on residents.
The unique nature of the emergency has required some quick and flexible logistical responses, Center said.
In one case, nozzles that enable Army National Guard HEMTT fuelers — normally used to dispense diesel fuel — to deliver unleaded gasoline where flown in from Kentucky on New York Air National Guard C-130s. The conversion kits were needed so that FEMA fuel could be pumped into New York City government and emergency vehicles, Center explained.
The need to provide fuel for civilian government vehicles has become a major priority for the Guard sustainment mission, Center said. Guard soldiers and airmen are running a major refueling point at Floyd Bennett Field and are also pushing fuel out when needed.
Making that mission successful has required on the ground coordination with New York City’s Office of Emergency Management, as well as an effort by Guardsmen from many states, said Capt. James Green, the officer in charge of the fuel point.
“We are coordinating a multi-state and multi-component task force,” Green said. “We have both Army National Guard and Air National Guard from New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Delaware, and Rhode Island.” About 110 people are working around the clock — stopping only when a snow storm hit the coastal location on Nov. 7 — to make the fueling mission work, Green said.
His “loggies” have gone above and beyond to meet mission requirements, Center said.
One night, Sgt. 1st Class Ashley Hazelton, a mechanic at the field maintenance shop in Latham, N.Y., stopped work at 8 p.m. after a daylong shift running the fueling point for city vehicles. But an emergency was in the process of happening.
The generators at the Jacob Javits Convention Center, where donated emergency supplies were being stored and sorted were about to run out of fuel. Hazelton and his partner climbed in their truck and headed out to do the mission, and put in another three hours.
“We are just doing everything. We do whatever they tell us to do,” Hazelton said.