NGAUS Washington Report
(Nov. 6, 2012) About 7,000 Guard members are helping people who are living without power in communities hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy.
On Saturday, Guard members started supporting other state and federal agencies, easing gasoline distribution challenges in New York. Guard members also were providing food, water, presence patrols and transportation, conducting house-to-house wellness checks on Staten Island and running pumps and generators.
The bulk of the Guard members, more than 4,000, are focused on New York and New Jersey, the two states that suffered the most from the giant storm’s wrath.
“The National Guard takes its missions from the governor, and they’re supporting the first responders, so when the capabilities of the first responders have been exceeded, then the National Guard is called in to support,” said Gen. Frank Grass, the chief of the National Guard Bureau.
“More than 6,000 Army National Guard soldiers are part of the massive relief effort across the entire region,” said Lt. Gen. William E. Ingram, Jr., the director of the Army National Guard. “Our soldiers are concentrated in communities hardest hit by the cold, flooding and power outages.
“We're ramping up our future operations as well," Ingram said. “About a thousand additional soldiers from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Delaware are on their way to help out with critical transportation, security and supply distribution efforts in New York and New Jersey.”
In his weekly radio address to the nation, President Barack Obama thanked the Guard for its efforts while acknowledging the efforts of all first responders.
Several Army and Air Force Reserve units are also taking part. The National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 streamlined the process for federal reserve forces to mobilize in support of relief efforts within local communities, according to an Army press release. Active-duty troops are also helping out in New York, as are Marines.
As Grass conducted a damage-assessment survey from a National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter over New York City and its environs Friday, he saw houses off their foundations, piles of soaked possessions including mattresses dragged to the curb, sand-covered roadways from shore-to-shore of narrow barrier islands.
As darkness fell, chunks of the metropolis lay in darkness and gas stations were easy to identify by the police lights flashing outside and the miles-long lines of taillights snaking along approach roads.
“In New York, it’s going to be a long haul there,” Grass said. ”So much damage, especially the subways. It’s going to take a while to get those pumped out. But the city looks like it’s ready to roll. It’s functioning down there. Some of the outer islands, you could see a lot of damage, and it’s going to take a while to get that cleaned up.”
Residents are offering startling displays of appreciation.
“The level of appreciation for the soldiers and the airmen is just unprecedented,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Jerome Jenkins, the senior enlisted leader of the New Jersey Army National Guard. “Astounding, great reaction, because they know that we’re here to help. When they see the Guard, they know that we’re here to help.”
Guard members continued to provide support in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia.
Operations in those states included route clearance, mounted presence patrols, commodities distribution, power generation support, sand and debris clearance, snow clearance, traffic control, search and rescue and health and welfare checks on residents in remote areas, according to the National Guard Coordination Center in Arlington, Va.'
States outside the affected area were contributing. For the first time, a C-27J Spartan military transport aircraft from the Ohio National Guard was supporting a domestic mission by transporting soldiers and vehicles headed to New York to support relief efforts.