By Army Staff Sgt. Jon Soucy
Special to American Forces Press Service
Dec. 16, 2008 - Massachusetts National Guard members are getting a helping hand today as they continue to assist with recovery operations from a severe winter storm that dropped ice, freezing rain and sleet throughout the region Dec. 11. Massachusetts Gov. Deval L. Patrick has doubled the number of Guardsmen on duty with a call-up of about 700 personnel, bringing the total to nearly 1,500. He also requested assistance yesterday from the governor of Connecticut under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact. He specifically asked for help in route-clearance and debris-removal operations.
The Connecticut National Guard will provide 23 personnel as well as equipment ranging from chainsaws to mobile-excavating equipment, John Whitford, the state public affairs officer, said. They are expected to arrive in the Springfield, Mass., area today.
"This request came down very fast, and they came on state active duty late last night," he said. "We had close to 40 volunteers, but only 23 were needed."
The soldiers are from the 192nd Engineering Battalion of Stratford, Conn., the 248th Engineer Company of Norwich, Conn., the 250th Engineering Company of New London, Conn., and the 246th and 256th firefighting detachments of East Lyme, Conn.
Whitford said this battalion is "unique," because it has the only authorized chainsaw operators in the state. "So they have these special skills sets to help out," he said. "They can hit the ground running when they get in state and get their taskings and immediately go to work."
Massachusetts' additional Guard personnel will assist in the recovery efforts with chainsaws, communications equipment, front-end loaders, dump trucks, armories, water and fuel transportation and generators. They also will provide security at more than 60 shelters while augmenting local police.
The National Guard was tasked with performing 160 simultaneous missions in the state, according to a Massachusetts National Guard news release. And as of 5 a.m. today, 54 of those missions were completed, while 89 missions remain ongoing.
Guard members from both states are expected to be on duty through the weekend, Guard officials said.
In New Hampshire, more than 350 soldiers from 197th Fires Brigade and 54th Troop Command are operating in the Concord and Manchester areas. They are providing shelter support, security operations, debris clearing and commodity distribution. The Federal Emergency Management Agency also has established a staging area at Pease Air National Guard Base with generators, cots and meals.
(Army Staff Sgt. Jon Soucy serves in the National Guard Bureau.)