New York aircrews haul hurricane relief in Florida

By Staff Sgt. Mike R. Smith, Guard Times Staff

SCOTIA, N.Y. — When the New York National Guard was asked to support Florida after its recent hurricanes, aircrews here were already geared to go.

“As the storm developed, plans were made in advance to have crews available to react when called upon,” said Maj. David Panzera, Antarctic Operations officer for the 109th Airlift Wing.

Panzera and over 30 other Airmen returned here Sept. 23 after providing hurricane relief for Florida’s residents, flying cargo, including water and food, across the state for five days.

Starting from an operations base in Savannah, Ga., four aircrews from the 109AW picked up supplies in Jacksonville and flew them to Pensacola, delivering to joint forces units helping with the relief efforts.

One C-130 and three LC-130s supported the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s relief effort after hurricanes caused billions of dollars in damages, leaving thousands of residents without power, food, and fresh water.

“As we approached [Pensacola] and descended into the airport, the first thing we could see was the amazing amount of spans missing from the I-10 bridges,” said Panzera. He went on to say that, as they got closer, they could see the devastation close-up, including sunken boats, an amazing amount of roofs missing and some buildings completely collapsed as well as missing altogether with only the foundations left.

“The crews saw that this destruction warranted our help like nothing else they have ever done,” said Panzera.

Aircrews transported over 439,000 pounds of supplies — by the time they came home, having worked on 10- to 12-hour work schedules, they completed 20 flights.

“Isn’t it incredible that America can meet needs abroad yet meet needs at home?” said Panzera. “It’s one of the great things about America and truly one of the greatest things about the National Guard.”

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