167th partners with community to help W.Va. residents without water

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Stacy Gault
  • 167th Airlift Wing
Airmen from the 167th Airlift Wing helped transport more than 60,000 pounds of donated supplies to Charleston, W.Va. for the 300,000 people left without drinking water in southern West Virginia.

State Sen. John Unger, who represents Berkeley and Jefferson counties, initiated the drive and enlisted the help from several community members and organizations to gather the items and prepare for pickup. Once the items were sorted and boxed up at the collection point, a former Dodge dealership showroom building in Martinsburg, they were trucked to the base and prepared for transport.

"The 167th is a vital partner to our Eastern Panhandle community," said Unger, "it was critical for the men and women of the West Virginia National Guard to transport the donations over 300 miles to the affected area and get the items to the people who desperately needed them."

The donations of water, sanitizer, baby formula, and nonperishable meals filled two trucks and three C-130s. The aircraft from the 130th Airlift Wing, Charleston, W.Va., delivered the items over the span of a week to the West Virginia National Guard Tire Distribution Center to be sorted and distributed throughout the community.

"This mission was a great opportunity for the local community to partner with the West Virginia National Guard to help our fellow West Virginians," said Col. Shaun Perkowski, wing commander of the 167th Airlift Wing. "It was an outstanding example of 'Joint Base West Virginia'--all of us pulling together for a common goal."

Bob Kutcher, a retired Navy commander and volunteer who worked at the collection point organizing the donations, said everyone worked together until the last gallon of water was loaded on the truck.

"These men and women that serve our country in times of crisis are top drawer," said Kutcher. "The 167th can be proud to know that the work they did in support of the Eastern Panhandle moving supplies to our state capitol area was second to none."

Residents were instructed not to use their running water Jan. 9 when a chemical used in the coal making process, leaked in to the Elk River which is also the primary water supply for West Virginia American Water Company.

In addition to the items from the community, members of the 167th also collected items such as camp showers, water containers and baby wipes for their fellow guardsmen delivered to the West Virginia National Guard State Family Programs Office.

Sherry Lewis, the 167th Airlift Wing Airman & Family Readiness Program manager, said the items people greatly needed weren't available in the stores and that's what prompted her to set up the on-base donation drive.

"When I heard that people were using gas cans to carry potable water back to their homes because the stores were sold out of all large containers, I knew that we needed to help any way we could," said Lewis.