Ohio National Guard News

Hurricanes hit the Homeland:
Ohio Guard members aid fellow Americans
in response to severe summer storms

Story by Stephanie Beougher, Video by Sgt. Andrew Kuhn, Ohio National Guard Public Affairs

Three major hurricanes hit the mainland U.S. or two of its territories during the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season. Since the first storm made landfall in August, more than 400 members of the Ohio National Guard were engaged with rescue and relief efforts in Texas, Florida, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. SEE ALL HURRICANE COVERAGE

COLUMBUS, Ohio (12/11/17) — Harvey, Irma and Maria. Three names many will not soon forget.

In August and September, beginning with Harvey and followed by Irma and Maria, three major hurricanes hit the mainland United States or two of its territories during the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season.

Since the first storm made landfall in August, the men and women of the Ohio National Guard were engaged with rescue and relief efforts in Texas, Florida, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. More than 400 personnel and equipment deployed to assist emergency management teams on the ground and in the air. Assistance from the Buckeye State came in the form of communications, medical aid, transportation, shelters, mobile kitchens, water purifying and imagery analysis, to name a few ways the ONG aided its fellow citizens.

“It’s because of the hard work and selfless service from each Citizen-Soldier and -Airman that the Ohio National Guard was able to fulfill multiple missions during a time of nearly unprecedented natural disaster relief efforts,” said Maj. Gen. Mark E. Bartman, Ohio adjutant general. “Even though it meant spending time away from their Families, jobs and college education, Ohio Guard members put the needs of others first and answered the call to help our neighbors.”

Assisting with the basic necessities

Two CH-47 Chinook helicopters from the Ohio Army National Guard were among the first to respond after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas. While the crews worked to transport water, food, fuel and personnel, it was one particular mission that caught the media’s attention. Affectionately dubbed “Operation Happy Cow” by the Soldiers from Company B, 3rd Battalion, 238th Aviation Regiment, based out of North Canton, Ohio, bales of hay were dropped from the backs of the helicopters into livestock fields that became islands after flood waters created by Harvey.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jason Forson was part of the crew. “A lot of the cows were stranded in areas that weren’t accessible by road and farmers were having a hard time feeding them. So we just loaded up the Chinook,” he said.

By the end of the four-day mission, crews flew more than 20 flights, providing food for more than 10,000 cows.

Wherever Ohio National Guard members went, they received an outpouring of thanks from residents. Master Sgt. Isaac Strickler was in Comerio, Puerto Rico with the 200th RED HORSE (Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineer) Squadron to supply potable water to the area with a Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Unit (ROWPU).

“We (had) people stopping on the side of the road just to thank us and to take photos of us helping the community. There (were) countless people coming to us, teary-eyed, thanking us for coming down to help,” Strickler said of the experience.

The unit supplied approximately 9,000 gallons of potable water a day to civilians. In addition to locating a safe water source and providing the area with safe, drinkable water, the team brought with them an ice machine and gave out ice so residents could keep medical supplies and food cold.

Food and shelter for all of the first responders was also a priority during the recovery efforts. The 200 RHS sent two complete Disaster Relief Bed-down Systems to St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands and to Puerto Rico. Each system provided basic life needs such as shelter, showers, latrines and laundry. Airmen from the 179th AW and the 178th Wing served about 9,400 meals during the month they operated a Disaster Relief Mobile Kitchen Trailer in Puerto Rico.

Limited access to medical care can also be an issue after a hurricane, which is why the 285th Medical Company (Area Support) went to Puerto Rico. The combat medics, based in Columbus, assisted more than 2,000 patients at four different locations in Puerto Rico, including the cities of Ponce and Manati. Operating in two, 12-hour shifts around the clock, members of the unit also went into the mountains for daily outreach missions to help residents who couldn’t make it to the city.

“In Ponce, most of the job included refilling prescriptions, handling issues related to diabetes and blood pressure, and gastrointestinal and upper respiratory issues. At Manati, the level of care needed was greater. We averaged six to eight evacuations a day to local hospitals because we didn’t have the capability to care for some of the patients,” said Maj. Bryanna Singleton, the 285th commander..

Supporting in the air and on the ground

Ohio National Guard members provided logistical support during hurricane relief efforts in the air and on the ground. Flying two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, 16 members of the 1st Battalion, 137th Aviation Regiment, based in Columbus, flew nearly 40 missions to transport more than 230 passengers, about 8 tons of food and 4,600 gallons of water to isolated areas in Puerto Rico.

Meanwhile, Soldiers from the 1483rd Transportation Company assisted with logistics on the ground to deliver much-needed food and water. The company conducted more than 120 missions, moved 780 tons of food and water and delivered to 67,500 families.

The 269th Combat Communication Squadron (CBCS) from Springfield set up satellite and telephone communications for five key agencies on the Virgin Islands. They repaired the communications links to the Virgin Islands Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters, enabling interagency coordination and expanded situational awareness outside of the local St. Thomas area. The 269th CBCS supported the Department of Energy and, working together, were able to restore power and bring in water, fuel, new telephone poles and generators.

“Our team was able to identify communication shortfalls around the island and either provide solutions by design or directly support additional mission sets without reducing capability to our primary customer,” said Tech. Sgt. Zachary Ruoff, a member of the 269th CBCS.

In Puerto Rico, Soldiers from the 137th Signal Company, based out of Newark, Ohio, worked with the Joint Task Force Puerto Rico to provide mobile satellite, telephone, internet, video conferencing and information technology services for more than 50 missions conducted by deployed military assets on the ground. In an interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Capt. Denise Stewart, 137th commander, said of the mission: “It’s a pride thing with being in the military and being able to be here to assist. To see so many organizations — both branches of the military and civilians — all come together for a common interest, is definitely a great thing.”

The National Guard’s support wasn’t limited to boots on the ground. Members of the 178th Wing analyzed airborne and commercial satellite imagery from their Ohio Air National Guard base in Springfield, during response efforts after Harvey and Irma. The information included checking routes throughout the flooded areas, especially important for first responder crews, and checking on critical infrastructure. “Anything we can do outside of the disaster zone helps free up those people that are on the ground trying to do those rescue efforts,” said Col. Rebecca O’Connor of the 178th.

Additional mission support came from the 121st Air Refueling Wing in Columbus, with its KC-135 Stratotankers flying more than 95 total hours to transport more than 110,000 pounds of cargo and nearly 400 military personnel. The 179th Airlift Wing provided two C-130H Hercules to run missions to and from the Virgin Islands and conducted numerous other airlifts to transport personnel and equipment to other hurricane-affected areas. Altogether, all four Ohio Air National Guard Wings, two geographically-separated units and six Ohio Army National Guard units provided personnel and equipment to support hurricane relief efforts.

While the hurricane season deployments have ended and the Ohio Soldiers and Airmen are back home, Ohio National Guard units always stand ready to be there, wherever it’s needed, the next time there’s a call for assistance in the homeland.

Deployment Timeline

  • Throughout the hurricane season, satellite imagery analysts at the 178th Wing in Springfield kept a watchful eye on critical infrastructure and assisted with key information used by first responders to rescue residents in flooded neighborhoods.

  • Aug. 30, 14 Soldiers and two Chinooks from Company B, 3rd Battalion, 238th Aviation Regiment, based in North Canton, deployed to Texas to deliver fuel, water, and food-including hay for stranded livestock.

  • Sept. 11, 14 Soldiers and two Chinooks from Company B, 3rd Battalion, 238th Aviation Regiment deployed again, this time to Florida to deliver fuel and water.

  • Sept. 7, six Airmen from the 269th Combat Communications Squadron flew to the U.S. Virgin Islands where, in the first 24-hours of operations, they enabled communications services to five key agencies supporting 70,000 residents.

  • Sept. 13, the 200th RED HORSE Squadron sent about 20 members to the U.S. Virgin Islands to build and operate a Disaster Relief Bed-down System (DRBS) to provide basic life needs such as shelter, showers, and latrines for up to 300 people.

  • Oct. 3, 30 Soldiers, part of an advance team made up of members of the 285th Medical Company (Area Support), Columbus, and 137th Signal Company, Newark, flew to Puerto Rico to prepare for the deployment of the units’ remaining Soldiers.

  • Oct. 4, 15 Airmen from the 179th Airlift Wing in Mansfield and the 178th Wing joined resources to respond to relief efforts in Puerto Rico with a Disaster Relief Mobile Kitchen Trailer (DRMKT).

  • Oct. 5, 30 Ohio Army National Guard Soldiers from the 285th Medical Company arrived in Puerto Rico to begin medical support efforts.

  • Oct. 6, a C-130H took off from the 179th Airlift Wing with a team of six Airmen from the 200th RED HORSE Squadron to deliver a Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Unit (ROWPU) to provide drinking water to Puerto Rico.

  • Oct. 12, deployment of 40 Soldiers from the 137th Signal Company, Newark; unit began to provide communication support to the Puerto Rico National Guard.

  • Oct. 26, 16 Soldiers and two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters from the 1st Battalion, 137th Aviation Regiment, based in Columbus, departed for Puerto Rico to transport food, water and personnel to areas isolated by damaged roads and infrastructure.

  • Oct 27 & 29, 86 Soldiers in the 1483rd Transportation Company based in Walbridge, departed for Puerto Rico to assist in transporting food, water, equipment and fuel in support of Hurricane Maria relief efforts.


flickr web site  share on facebook