LATHAM – The National Guard’s response to Hurricane Irma continued Monday as 10 New York Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and 55 Soldiers left for Jacksonville, Fla.
The aircraft came from Army Aviation Support Facilities in Rochester; Latham, which is near Albany, and Ronkonkoma on Long Island. Three aircraft came from Rochester, four from Long Island and three from Latham.
The aircraft are capable of moving supplies or personnel from confined locations or in areas with limited access. Six of the 10 helicopters are equipped with hoists.
The Soldiers on the mission are assigned to A and B companies of the 3rd Battalion, 142nd Aviation Regiment, based in Latham and Ronkonkoma, respectively, and C Company (Medical Evacuation) of the 1st Battalion, 171st Aviation Regiment in Rochester.
En route to Florida
The aircraft were slated to fly to Richmond, Va., to conduct maintenance and get further information on the situation in Florida, according to Maj. Paul Baille, 3-142nd Aviation executive officer. Their mission could start out being search and rescue and then would likely shift to flying critical personnel and supplies and later to general airborne transportation, Baille said.
Some of the Soldiers who are part of the mission flew missions along the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina and others have experience in flying missions following Superstorm Sandy in 2012 and Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, said Baille, who served during Katrina as an aviation liaison officer.
Capt. Forrest Thrush, a member of A Company, said that he would take his cue from the unit members who had experience flying in support of previous weather emergencies. "I’ll learn from them," Thrush said.
After the New York helicopters arrived in Florida, they would be assigned missions by the Florida National Guard, which would organize aviation task forces.
Aviation task forces
On Thursday, the New York Air National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing deployed 130 airmen with three HH-60 Pave Hawk rescue helicopters and two HC-130P/N King search and rescue aircraft.
The helicopters and airmen, who are based at Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton Beach, were carried in two C-17 Globemaster IIIs assigned to the 105th Airlift Wing from Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh.
The team was based out of San Juan, Puerto Rico, and conducted missions in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The wing also conducted evacuation operations on the island of St. Martin in conjunction with airlift wings from Puerto Rico and Kentucky. Using six aircraft, the three wings moved 1,582 Americans from the joint French- and Dutch-administered island to Puerto Rico so they could return home.
On Monday, the wing moved from Puerto Rico to Florida to support operations there if required.
The 106th Rescue Wing also deployed a third HC-130P/N from Gabreski Air National Guard Base to transport additional personnel from the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron to Florida.
The New York Air National Guard’s 105th Airlift Wing also moved a Joint Incident Site Communications Capability system to Mississippi on Sunday. The JISCC system allows airmen to rapidly set up Internet and other communications capabilities during natural and manmade disasters.
The system was staged in Mississippi to await movement into Florida if required.
And on Sept. 9, a C-130 Hercules aircraft assigned to the New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing in Stratton Air National Guard Base, outside Schenectady, flew to St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands where hurricane damage was particularly severe with medical supplies and emergency food rations.
The crew returned to New York on Sept. 10.