167th Airlift Wing plays role in Operation Big Sandy Superstorm

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Sherree Grebenstein
  • 167 AW/PA
The Federal Emergency Management Agency tapped the West Virginia Air National Guard's 167th Airlift Wing base as a staging area to push out much-needed storm relief supplies to Mountain State residents hit hardest by Superstorm Sandy.
Although FEMA's stay at the Martinsburg base was brief - officially ceasing its operations here on Saturday night - the Wing demonstrated its vital importance in providing resources, manpower and an ideal locale to headquarter the humanitarian mission from in this region of the state.
FEMA operations here spun up at the beginning of the month with Airmen and Soldiers from the West Virginia National Guard working in tandem to ensure the emergency supplies trucked in from around the country were distributed to those in need. Some areas of the Mountain State reportedly received up to 80 inches of snow.
According to Capt. Christopher T. Tusing, installation deployment officer for the 167th Airlift Wing, Airmen from the Wing in Martinsburg were assigned to work on the logistical mission of unloading water and food from FEMA trailers and loading them onto Army Guard vehicles destined for some of the hardest hit communities in the state.
"The 167th Airlift Wing provided over 56 Airmen in all to support emerging Hurricane Sandy Response over the last week, in direct collaboration with West Virginia Army National Guardsmen and FEMA," Tusing said.
"Our members quickly stepped up, coordinating operations with the West Virginia Joint Operations Center (WVJOC) in Charleston," he noted. "We provided community assessment teams and hands-on load teams to facilitate the effective distribution of numerous pallets of MREs and water and provide aide to fellow West Virginians in need."
Tusing said the collaboration, "continues to illustrate the dedication and commitment levels of the men and women who serve in the joint operating environment of the West Virginia National Guard."
Col. Roger L. Nye, commander of the 167th Airlift Wing, was no less impressed with how the state's Air and Army National Guard components came together to assist getting FEMA aid to those in need. Operation Big Sandy Superstorm tested the mettle of the Wing's Airmen but he said they were up to the challenge.
"They responded with gusto and dedication and determination to do this mission safely and to do it right," Nye said of the Wing's Airmen. "Probably one of the greatest satisfactions that we get out of this job is helping others."
Liaison Officer (LNO) teams from the Wing were also sent to Berkeley, Morgan and Jefferson counties. Each LNO team consisted of three Airmen who assisted each county in its Emergency Operations Center. One of the LNO teams was later dispatched to Upshur County.
"They (the LNO teams) stepped forward as the Wing always does and went to be a part of the solution," Nye said of the unit's LNO teams.
Even as FEMA began to wind down its operations on base Saturday night, the commander said the Wing received notice that trucks carrying a total of 25,000 blankets would soon be rolling in. C-130s from Little Rock, Ark., would in turn fly them to New York.
The cargo's final destination? Into the hands of storm victims states away.
Wing Airmen worked into the night to load the blankets onto the C-130s. By dawn the aircraft were enroute to JFK Airport.
"They loaded up and went before daybreak, before the rest of the world was awake," he said. "Those airplanes are doing triple shuttles."
Whether handling cargo or working in another supporting mission, the commander said the Wing's Airmen should be proud of their accomplishments.
"Everything that happens on this base supports the mission, whatever it is at that time," he noted.
"The folks that are at the tip of the spear - whatever that spear may look like that day - can't do the job they do without the support of everyone behind them."
"This was a Wing effort and did a great job," Nye said. "We will continue to stand by to do that job however we're asked," Nye said.
When asked how he would describe the past week, the commander said one word "Satisfaction" could best convey his feeling.
"It's been very satisfying," Nye said. "Even though we are tired, we know that we are helping our fellow Americans and it feels good."