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School rooftops cleared by Conn. Guardsmen

Flying Yankee Airmen with the 103rd Airlift Wing, Conn. Air National Guard, shovel and move snow off the roof of Tolland High School, Tolland, Conn., Jan. 4, 2011 after the town's schools were closed over safety concerns and town officials requested help from the Connecticut National Guard. Approximately 125 Guardsmen were activated and worked from sunrise to sunset there and at the town’s middle school. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Tedd Andrews)

Flying Yankee Airmen with the 103rd Airlift Wing, Conn. Air National Guard, shovel and move snow off the roof of Tolland High School, Tolland, Conn., Jan. 4, 2011 after the town's schools were closed over safety concerns and town officials requested help from the Connecticut National Guard. Approximately 125 Guardsmen were activated and worked from sunrise to sunset there and at the town’s middle school. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Tedd Andrews)

Senior Airmen Matthew Merrow, 103rd Maintenance Group, throws a shovelful of snow from the roof of Tolland High School Jan. 4, 2011, after the town's schools were closed over safety concerns and town officials requested help from the Connecticut National Guard. Approximately 125 Guardsmen were activated and worked from sunrise to sunset there and at the town’s middle school. Heavy snow this winter has recently caused several roof collapses across the state. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Tedd Andrews)

Senior Airmen Matthew Merrow, 103rd Maintenance Group, Conn. Air National Guard, throws a shovelful of snow from the roof of Tolland High School in Tolland, Conn. Jan. 4, 2011, after the town's schools were closed over safety concerns and town officials requested help from the Connecticut National Guard. Approximately 125 Guardsmen were activated and worked from sunrise to sunset there and at the town’s middle school. Heavy snow this winter has recently caused several roof collapses across the state. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Tedd Andrews)

Lt. Col. Kevin McManaman, commander, 118th Airlift Squadron, throws a shovelful of snow from the roof of Tolland High School Jan. 4, 2011, after the town's schools were closed over safety concerns and town officials requested help from the Connecticut National Guard. Approximately 125 Guardsmen were activated and worked from sunrise to sunset there and at the town’s middle school. Heavy snow this winter has recently caused several roof collapses across the state. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Tedd Andrews)

Lt. Col. Kevin McManaman, commander, 118th Airlift Squadron, Conn. Air National Guard, throws a shovelful of snow from the roof of Tolland High School in Tolland, Conn. Jan. 4, 2011, after the town's schools were closed over safety concerns and town officials requested help from the Connecticut National Guard. Approximately 125 Guardsmen were activated and worked from sunrise to sunset there and at the town’s middle school. Heavy snow this winter has recently caused several roof collapses across the state. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Tedd Andrews)

TOLLAND, Conn. -- The sound of boots on the roof was not a belated visit from St. Nick, but that of Connecticut Air National Guardsmen as they worked to remove massive amounts of snow from the high school and middle school in Tolland on Feb. 4, 2011. Approximately 125 Airmen from the 103rd Airlift Wing armed themselves with snow shovels, roof rakes and snow blowers to wage a snowy battle against the waist-high snow piled atop the schools.

"[It] feels good to help kids and the community," said Senior Airman Jonathan Shewbrooks from the 103rd Air Control Squadron. "That's part of why I joined the Guard."

The Airmen spent the better part of the day working to remove the hundreds of thousands of square feet of snow from the roofs. According to Steve Werbner, the Tolland town manager, the roofs had to be cleared before future storms expected Saturday and next week could push the weight of the snow and ice beyond the designed load capacity limits.

The daunting task cost the Town about $20,000. More than 50 percent of the high school and approximately 70 percent of the middle school roofs were cleared by sunset.
Defense and support of civil authorities has always been a mission of the Guard, said Col. Fredrick R. Miclon, vice commander, 103rd Airlift Wing.

"It was a very short-notice tasking. We caught wind of it probably 12 hours or so, maybe 18 hours, before we actually mobilized people to do it," said Miclon. "So, it's pretty time sensitive and critical with the roofs that have been collapsing across the state."

Collapsing roofs are not the only clear and present danger facing Connecticut school children. State law will not let school days exceed past June 30. Some districts have already cut into February vacations and spring vacation could soon be next.

Lt. Col. Kevin McManaman, commander of the 118th Airlift Squadron and a Tolland resident, expressed his vested interest in clearing the school's roofs so his own children could "get out of the house" and back to school.

"I spoke to the principal this morning and he re-iterated how important it is for us to be out here so that the kids can go to school on Monday - I think all the Guardsmen are proud to be out here," said Col. Peter J. DePatie, commander of the 103rd Air and Space Operations Group at Bradley Air National Guard Base.

Future storms may be looming over the horizon of next week, but it is apparent that, having the Guard so readily available, the state of Connecticut may have nothing to fear. Let it snow! (Let it stop--Editor)