Air Guard wings line up at Savannah for Maria recovery

(A team of Air National Guard aerial porters from the 165th Airlift Wing in Savannah load a palette of water destined for St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, Sept. 22, 2017. More than four tons of water and food will be delivered to people affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Photo by 165th Airlift Wing)

SAVANNAH, Ga. — Air National Guard Airmen began lining up operations for aircraft, cargo, and passengers through Savannah Air National Guard Base here Sept. 22 to support the recovery and relief operations after Hurricane Maria lined up to pulverize Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced disaster declarations shortly after Maria passed over the islands to be among the strongest recorded hurricanes to hit the United States. It followed two other major hurricanes making landfall this month.

The Georgia Air National Guard’s 165th Airlift Wing at Savannah Air National Guard Base is serving as a hub and spoke operation for aircraft flying to and from the disaster areas, as well as flying missions.

Aircraft from California, Connecticut, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, and Rhode Island were among the other Air National Guard flights expected to begin airlift from here as airfields reopen on the islands.

The wing is a C-130 cargo aircraft unit, and its mission is to prepare, load, and support arriving aircraft with critical supplies to the disaster areas.

“The 165th has the right Airmen with the right capability to work with other units coming here from across the nation in support of FEMA, and we will help ensure airlift gets to those in the affected areas during their time of need,” said Col. Pete Boone, the wing’s vice commander.

“We are on duty as long as we are needed,” said Boone.

As of Friday, 759 Air National Guard Airmen are deployed to the Joint Operations Area – Florida, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.

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