Sassy, a Yorkshire Terrier, awaits a flight out of Savannah Air National Guard Base to St. Croix, Sept. 24, 2017, along with three other pets. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith)
SAVANNAH AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Ga. – The National Guard hit the ground running this week to bring disaster response to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, but getting off to a quick start is an understatement for Batina “Blue” Wesson and her husband, Army Sgt. Maj. Derwin Wesson.
Sergeant Major Wesson is the incoming U.S. Virgin Islands National Guard Command Sergeant Major. Hurricane Maria hit before he could arrive to take the position as the senior noncommissioned officer for all enlisted Soldiers.
“We’re going in with boots on the ground and get in,” said Blue.
She sat outside the door of an Air National Guard airlift hub and contingency processing center Sept. 24 at Savannah Air National Guard Base in Georgia. The sergeant major checked on their flight to Saint Croix. Accompanying her were their pets, Zoo, a Bengal cat, as well as three dogs – Sassy and Pinky Winky – both Yorkshire Terriers – and Mr. Biggie – a Miniature Pinscher.
Blue said that the move is probably her husband’s last change of station before his military retirement. They married 28 years ago and around the same time that he joined the Army. She retired from corporate investigations and pharmacy work.
Air National Guard C-130 and C-17 cargo aircraft airlifted hundreds of Guardsmen and hundreds of thousands of pounds of cargo from Savannah to Puerto Rico and the island territories this week.
When they get to the tropical paradise, they will see downed power and communication lines as well as flattened homes and infrastructure. More than 60 percent of cell sites across the islands are out of service. News reports estimated that the island has a long road to recovery.
“That’s how bad it got hit,” Blue said.
Blue pointed out that St. Croix may have suffered less damage in Hurricane Irma. Its National Guard was helping out the other islands from a staging area there when Hurricane Maria hit the Caribbean.
“Maria took away all of their resources, so now they need assistance,” Blue said. “But we have a lot to offer.”
More than 106,000 live in the U.S. Virgin Islands, which includes Saint Croix, Saint John, Saint Thomas, and about 50 minor islands and cays.
Sergeant Major Wesson returned from the processing center and updated Blue on their flight – it took about four hours to get there. Their plane carried disaster response cargo, and someone planned to arrive planeside to take them onward.