Mass. Air Guard aids in refueling NY emergency forces after Hurricane Sandy

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Kerri Cole
  • 102nd Intelligence Wing Public Affairs
While everyone was heading home from the Unit Training Assembly on Nov. 4, five Airmen from Barnes and Otis Air National Guard Bases were tasked with a unique storm recovery mission here, in response to the effects of Hurricane Sandy, which hit the area Oct. 29.

Because many gas stations in New York City are dependent on fuel distribution terminals in Brooklyn that were damaged by the storm, the region was left in a fuel shortage crisis.

The Massachusetts Air National Guard team were the first Airmen to respond at Floyd-Bennett Field, Brooklyn, N.Y., where a fuel depot was established to aid in recovery operations by providing fuel distribution to emergency service vehicles. The initial efforts led by the team of Mass. Airmen evolved into a multi-state National Guard task force refueling operation.

"Our mission was to dispense gasoline to first responders such as the police department, nurses, doctors, sanitation departments, power companies, school buses and so on," said Senior Master Sgt. Tom Orifice, non-commissioned officer in charge of the operation. "At one point, we even had taxi cabs coming in because the taxi fleet had become vital to getting people to where they needed to go for shelter and sustenance."

The Massachusetts Air National Guard, along with the Army National Guard, provided a series of C-300 fuel trucks, which can hold 1,200 gallons of fuel and are capable of dispensing gasoline directly into vehicles. Approximately 350,000 gallons of fuel, provided by FEMA, were distributed to about 12,000 vehicles at the Floyd-Bennett Field fuel depot over the last two weeks.

"We reconfigured the layout of the vehicle access points to make it safer and more efficient as far as getting vehicles in and out. After the reconfiguration, we were able to refuel about 50 percent more vehicles at a time," Orifice said.

Many Guardsmen make the oath of enlistment for reasons like this -- to assist their local communities in a time of need.

"In a deployed environment you don't always have the opportunity to talk to the people you are helping -- but when you're doing a homeland emergency response, you are talking to the folks that you are helping and are able to listen to their stories and see the gratitude they have for [the National Guard]," said Master Sgt. John Abril, 102nd Intelligence Wing fuels specialist. "It was an amazing experience."

Maj. Gen. L. Scott Rice, The Adjutant General, Massachusetts National Guard, stated, "Our Relief and recovery operations were refocused to assist the storm-ravaged communities of New York. I'm very proud of the hard work our soldiers and airmen put in on behalf of the citizens of the Commonwealth. I'm confident these soldiers we sent to New York were just as dedicated to assist our neighboring state during their time of need."

"They performed superbly under challenging and austere conditions. Senior Master Sgt. Orifice's outstanding leadership organizing and running what evolved into a large, joint refueling operation has been singled out by Army leadership as particularly impressive and commendable," said Lt. Col. Christopher Hurley, 102nd Mission Support Group deputy commander.

Sgt. Orifice said he couldn't have asked for a better team of people to work with. The other Massachusetts Air National Guard team members included Master Sgt. John Abril and Staff Sgt. Rob Montgomery from the 102nd Logistics Readiness Squadron, Tech. Sgt. Kevin Kane and Staff Sgt. Jay Kinney from the 104th Logistics Readiness Squadron. Also, Senior Master Sgt. Dale Swartz, 102 IW vehicle maintenance superintendent, made an innovative conversion of the refueler nozzles on-site in N.Y. to support civilian vehicles which was noteworthy in the success of the operation.

More than 100 Army and Air National Guardsmen came from New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Delaware, Ohio, and Rhode Island to assist and worked around the clock to make the fueling mission successful.