September 16, 2017
Story by Senior Master Sgt. Emily Beightol-Deyerle
167th Airlift Wing, West Virginia Air National Guard
The 167th Airlift Wing flew eight missions in support of hurricane relief efforts in Texas and Florida this month.
Additionally, the Martinsburg, W.Va. unit served as a staging area for federally-funded medical equipment and supplies destined for Florida and Puerto Rico.
Over the Labor Day weekend, five Airmen from the 167th AW’s small air terminal, went to the Harrisburg International Airport in Middletown, Pa. to prepare cargo that was then transported by two of the wing’s C-17’s to an Army aviation support facility in Austin, Texas to support hurricane Harvey recovery and relief efforts.
The 167th AW flew four missions from Pennsylvania to Texas, hauling 32 Pennsylvania Army National Guard soldiers and 113.9 tons of cargo, including generators, portable water tanks, vehicles and forklifts.
Maj. Gen. James A. Hoyer, The Adjutant General, West Virginia National Guard said that from the moment Hurricane Harvey hit the radar he and his staff were in constant communications with Texas and other states offering support whenever and wherever needed.
“Let’s face it, West Virginia National Guard has a lot of experience in the flood business. In fact, many of our Soldiers and Airmen and their families have been affected by flooding in our own state, so we understand many of the challenges. It’s our honor to help the citizens of Texas,” Hoyer said.
On September 7, the 167th AW launched a mission in anticipation of Hurricane Irma. The crew flew to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska to pick up pararescuemen with the 212th Rescue Squadron and then to Portland Ore. to pick up combat controllers with the 125th Special Tactics Squadron.
The 24.5 hour-long operation, took 33 passengers from the two squadrons and 28 tons of their equipment to Hurlburt Field, Fla. Cargo included trucks, trailers, generators and a storm search and rescue tactical vehicle (SRTV) also referred to as the Guardian Angel Air Deployable Recovery Vehicle.
According to Maj. Mark Reeder, the aircraft commander for the mission, the crew spent less than seven hours on the ground between the three locations and Martinsburg.
“Hurlburt leadership was meeting to decide whether or not to evacuate as we were unloading the aircraft. We had to request a waiver to extend the mission beyond the duty day limit,” Reeder said.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services sent eight tractor trailer loads of medical equipment and supplies to the Wing from their Frederick, Md., warehouse, Sept 9. About 20 Airmen from the small air terminal and the traffic management office cleared the equipment off the trailers and onto 38 pallets, then prepared all the pallets for air transport to Florida and Puerto Rico.
Two C-17’s from the 437th Airlift Wing, Joint Base Charleston, S.C., landed in Martinsburg Sept. 10 to pick up the cargo bound for Puerto Rico.
“While providing much need support for those affected by Hurricane Irma the Airmen were able to gain valuable training in cargo prep, pallet buildup, staging and loading aircraft which cannot normally be obtained at home station,” said Col. Rodney Neely, the 167th Mission Support Group commander. “It was a very rewarding experience for all because at the end of the day everyone knew the plane loads of their hard work was going to help those that needed it the most.”
The remainder of the HHS cargo was transported from Martinsburg, Sept. 14, on two more C-17’s from the 437th AW and one from the 164th AW in Memphis, Tenn.
The 167th launched a C-17 from Martinsburg, Sept. 10 transporting 19 tons of cargo and eight communications specialists from Buckley Air Force base in Colo. to Key Field in Meridian, Miss.
The following day the 167th AW hauled 40 Soldiers and 20 tons of cargo from Nebraska Army National Guard’s 1-367th Aviation Regiment (Security and Support) to Cecil Field in Jacksonville, Fla. The unit was tasked with manning an aviation task force headquarters in order to provide command and control operations for aircraft conducting relief efforts throughout northern Florida.
On Sept. 12, another C-17 departed Martinsburg and flew to Cecil Field in Jacksonville, Fla. The crew spent about six hours on the ground there to prepare 52 tons of cargo, including Humvees and generators, for transport to Marathon International Airport in the Florida Keys which had been hit hard by Hurricane Irma.
The 125th STS, deployed to Florida prior to the hurricane via a 167th AW C-17, had cleared the runway and re-opened the airfield at Marathon for non-commercial aviation.
Capt. Timothy Siemer who was piloting the flight said they arrived at the Marathon airport at about 9:00 p.m. The taxiway was still closed. Siemer explained that after landing at the airfield, which was powered by generators, they had to back up the plane about half the length of the runway to download the cargo and then back up the remaining length of the runway in order to take-off.
“The 167th has a legacy of assisting nationwide, whether it’s a state emergency or an event like Hurricane Katrina or Superstorm Sandy. We were asked to help out and there was no shortage of volunteers,” said Col. Shaun Perkowski, Commander of the 167th Airlift Wing.
This article was originally found here.