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Homeland Security

New York Guard aviators respond to Hurricane Irene

September 1, 2011

By Eric Durr, New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs

LATHAM. N.Y., Sept. 1, 2011 -- New York Army National Guard Aviation units have logged 150 hours of flight time and transported 60,000 pounds of food and water to isolated mountain towns and central distribution centers as state officials continue to respond to the aftermath of Hurricane Irene.

The first flight of New York Army Guard aviators occurred on Sunday, just after the brunt of the storm passed over the state. Aviators flying from the Army Aviation Support Facility at Albany International Airport flew south into Greene County to see if they could assist in rescuing people in the town of Prattsville who were stranded by rising flood waters. The stranded civilians were rescued before the helicopters were needed that night.

At first light on Monday, the citizen-Soldier aviators of Task Force Aviation began flying surveillance missions so that state officials could begin to assess the impact of the storm. On both Long Island, where Hurricane Irene first hit, and Catskill Mountain towns where small creeks became raging rivers, the Guard UH-60s provided eyes in the sky.

In a joint operation, three New York Air National Guard HH-60 Pavehawk search and rescue helicopters, which had been evacuated from their base on Long Island to escape the storm, were dispatched to Schoharie County to conduct search and rescue missions if necessary.

The Task Force Aviation team also provided transportation to Governor Andrew Cuomo, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate so they could conduct a tour of flood-ravaged regions.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the aviators began hauling food and water.

CH-47D Chinook heavy lift helicopters assigned to B Co. of the 1st Battalion, 126th Aviation picked up Federal Emergency Management Agency supplies flowing into Stewart Air National Guard Base. The supplies were loaded into the Chinooks and flown to Belleayre Ski Center, a state-owned facility in Highmont, Ulster County.

At Belleayre, UH-60s from the Albany flight facility picked up water and food and airlifted them into Margaretville, Prattsville, Middleburgh, and other Greene and Schoharie County mountain towns which were not easily accessible by road.

Other flights carried food and water donated by the Regional Food bank of Northeastern New York. Soldiers packed the UH-60s full of food and bottled drinks and sent them on their way.

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