STRATTON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Scotia, N.Y. — Early September brought unscheduled airlift missions for the 109th Airlift Wing nearly one month before the 2005 Antarctic flying season as hurricane Katrina crippled the nation’s Gulf Coast region.
Governor George E. Pataki mobilized the New York National Guard within hours of the disaster, and up to seven C-130, Hercules aircraft and aircrew along with 35 Airmen from Security Forces, Chaplains, Aerial Port and the Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron were operating under his mobilization. These Airmen fended through a storm of joint relief operations in New Orleans, Mississippi and Texas safely, and with teamwork.
On Sept. 9, two 139th Air Squadron aircrews airlifted Connecticut Air National Guard security forces personnel and their gear from Bradley Air National Guard Base, Conn., to Louisiana’s Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Air Base, a 20-minute drive from the flooded areas of downtown New Orleans.
The airlift was part of the 139AS’ ongoing Katrina relief support in which they transported more than 520,000 pounds of cargo, flew over 90 sorties and carried 480 personnel to storm-damaged areas.
Two C-130 Hercules aircrews worked with the CANG’s Airmen to load air cargo at Bradley International Airport and made a quick turnaround for NAS JRB New Orleans. The air base’s operations tempo left no doubts on the community’s need for support and the U.S. military’s overwhelming response. A jambalaya of fixed and rotary winged aircraft, vehicles and personnel, operating inside and outside of the station, dwarfed 139AS aircrews and aircraft, there.
“You should see [the operations] at night,” Tech. Sgt. Ronald Jemmott, an aircraft mechanic, said. Jemmott said that operating safely in such crowded airspace requires skill and teamwork. “In relief missions, you can’t be on the ground long there is no space or maintenance support,” Jemmott said.
Tech Sgt. Michael Cousineau, loadmaster, said that 139AS aircrews are trained and experienced in all kinds of missions, including State relief missions; as a loadmaster, Cousineau, along with Senior Airman Patrick Bornt, managed the air cargo and passengers on aircraft # 488.
“We [transport air cargo and passengers] year round and work from a flying calendar,” Cousineau said. “It’s nice to go and perform [this] mission and help out.”
The day’s airlift was not without its challenges: a minor maintenance problem put Jemmott and flight engineer, Senior Master Sgt. Mark O’Lena, to work evaluating and replacing an engine ignition relay on aircraft # 488 at the NAS JRB flight line, but they arrived home that night with little delay.
He [Jemmott] was the hero today, Cousineau said referring to Jemmott’s mechanical ability and effort to get the aircraft repaired and the aircrew home.
The Airmen had completed the round trip relief mission, spanning more than 3,000 miles, in nearly twelve hours.