Connecticut Guardsmen answer the call in wake of Irene

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Brian D. Perlini and Army Capt. Chuck Taylor
  • 103rd Air Control Squadron/192nd MFEB
On Saturday, August 27, the governor of Connecticut declared a state of emergency prompting the Adjutant General of the Connecticut National Guard to upgrade hurricane condition levels and relocate assets in preparation for Hurricane Irene.

The 103rd Air Control Squadron, based in Orange, Conn., activated approximately 44 personnel for High Water Vehicle Operations, Power Generations Support, & Recovery Operations communicating with the governor and the state emergency management office. The ACS activated the UCC (Unit Command Center) at noon on Saturday; personnel remained on station supporting high water vehicle response efforts through Monday, August 29.

"We will be staging personnel, vehicles and equipment to support missions such as high water transport, evacuation & recovery, and generator support," said Lt. Col. William Neri, commander of the 103rd Air Control. "It is critical for us to have personnel in place and ready to respond before severe weather hits so we can rapidly respond when called," he said.

Working around the clock, the 103rd Air Control Squadron supported high water operations in several local cities resulting in 22 Escort missions, 10 Recon missions, and three Evacuation missions over the three-day period. From August 30 to September 5, the ACS supported tactical generator deployments to Berlin, Beacon Falls, Scotland, East Hartford, and Hartford. In addition, tactical air conditioning units were deployed to East Hartford and Hartford. The generator missions supported town requests for emergency power support, and the AC missions were in support of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), the Joint Operations Center (JOC), and Army operations at Rentschler Field in East Hartford.

Airman with the 103rd Airlift Wing were also activated to relieve Army National Guardsmen and assist with commodity distribution efforts at Rentschler Field in East Hartford. In all, 93 Air Guardsmen were called to duty to help get folks back on their feet after the storm.

"We provided high-wheeled vehicles for evacuation operations, power and air conditioning, route clearance and debris management, and also ran the commodity distribution operation at Rentschler Field," said Col. Frederick Miclon, 103rd Airlift Wing vice commander. "Great job by all of you that participated," Miclon said.
In response to Irene, ACS members deployed three-man driver teams to support high water transportation missions to local communities.

"My vehicle team was dispatched to East Broadway Street in Milford to assist firefighters with two rescue missions," said Master Sgt. Carrie Traverse. "We rescued two families, including four dogs that were stranded in over three feet of water," she said.

"Our team was sent to Fort Hale School in New Haven to provide Recon missions," said Tech. Sgt. William Stanton. "We transported local firefighters in search of downed power lines and other potential hazards," he said.

"I am very proud of all the members of this [103rd ACS] unit. We worked long hours, but it was very rewarding to have assisted and helped our fellow Connecticut citizens," said Neri. "In recent memory, this event involved the most significant emergency response provided by ACS personnel, and all those involved felt a great sense of duty and personal gratification knowing they were assisting their fellow citizens," Neri said.

With the projected path of Hurricane Irene going through Connecticut, the Army National Guard's 192nd Multi-Functional Engineer Battalion (MFEB) started preparing and planning for the worst. Several identified tasks were to co-locate chainsaws, construction equipment and vehicles at key shoreline locations around the state. Operations Centers were opened and contact made with local leaders and authorities. With all of this accomplished days before the expected landfall, the 192nd was well prepared to provide Evacuation Support, Emergency Relief and Debris Clearance.

Approximately 120 engineers were brought on to State Active Duty on Saturday, Aug, 27 and stationed at two armories in the vicinity of the shoreline. Soldiers were assigned to Heavy and Light Debris Removal / Route Clearance teams. Heavy teams consisted of three chainsaws, one I-HMEE, one LMTV and one HMMWV. Light teams consisted of chainsaw and one HMMWV. The light teams were designed to provide quick response to trees down over key roadways.

As the storm surge hit the shoreline communities, the engineers tasked four Soldiers and two HMMWVs with the 103rd Air Control Squadron (ACS) at the Orange Air National Guard Base in anticipation of evacuation support for Milford and Orange. These Soldiers rolled-out with the local Fire Department on every call they received.
The engineers also supported missions with local Police Departments to drive flooded shoreline roads with LMTVs. With the high water capabilities of the LMTVs, the Connecticut Army National Guard Soldiers were able to reach many residents who found themselves trapped by flooded streets. Engineers were able to report gas leaks and provide damage assessments to local town officials.

As the battalion leadership toured the Milford area on Saturday they stopped to assist in the emergency evacuation of a civilian who had been hurt during the storm. They assisted the civilian through the flooded water and worked with the paramedics to load
him on to a stretcher and in to the ambulance.

The Soldiers of the 192nd Engineer Battalion were tasked to support a mission in Bristol along with the 143rd Military Police Company. The mission again was to use vehicles with high water capabilities to drive the flooded streets and rescue civilians trapped by flooding rivers. The MPs reported to the Incident Commander in Bristol and learned that a woman and her son were trapped in their house and were requesting to be rescued. The MPs were able to drive through the flooded streets, back up to the house and assist the woman and boy into the vehicle and drove them to dry ground where they were met by family members.

The response in Bristol then took a sad turn of events as the Engineer and MP missions turned to assisting the local firefighters in searching for a man who capsized in a canoe along the flooded Pequabuck River. Two men had attempted to canoe across the flooded river when the canoe capsized. One man was rescued but his companion travelled downstream with the capsized canoe. The Engineers assisted in identifying a landing zone for a search and rescue helicopter and searching the riverbanks for the missing man. The MPs continued to search for the missing boater. Unfortunately, his body was not located until the next day by local authorities.

As the weather cleared Monday morning, the Engineers were once again on the road in support of a Commodities Distribution Center being set up at Rentschler Field in East Hartford to receive and download emergency supplies coming in to the state. The battalion also continued recon missions along the Connecticut shoreline providing intelligence, engineer assessments and pictures to local authority incident commanders.