102nd Weathers Hurricane Sandy

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Aaron Smith
  • 102nd Intelligence Wing Public Affairs
On Monday Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast, leaving many areas devastated. While Massachusetts largely escaped the damage, the Massachusetts National Guard and the 102nd Intelligence Wing were ready to act no matter what happened and gained valuable experience in the process.

Days before hurricane Sandy made landfall, the Massachusetts National Guard was preparing and making sure it would be there for citizens. As part of this effort, the 102nd Intelligence Wing activated one hundred and fifty eight airmen. These airmen came from a variety of critical organizations and career fields that have important roles to play when disaster strikes, roles in areas like security, communication, and logistics.

On Monday morning at 5 a.m., as the first gusts from Hurricane Sandy swept across Cape Cod, a large group of airmen began streaming into a conference room on Otis Air National Guard base, signing-in and waiting to be dispatched to where they're needed. Meanwhile, in the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), commanders and critical base agencies prepare to take direction from Joint Force Headquarters and, from this control hub, coordinate assets to and provide what is needed during the storm.

Describing the operation, Lt. Col. Christopher Hurley, the 102d EOC Director stated "I was incredibly impressed with the commitment and professionalism of the airmen, civilian technicians and state workers who quickly reconstituted the base while simultaneously preparing and deploying forces in support of Hurricane Sandy relief efforts." Describing a new aspect of the operation, he noted that this was the first time that Air National Guard forces were assigned to lead the J2 Intelligence and J6 Communications functions at Joint Force Headquarters (JFHQ). In addition, 102nd Liaison officers and Senior Non-Commissioned officers were also assigned to the local Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) Operations Center and to the 79th Troop Command in Rehoboth, Mass.

One unique part of this operation is the way that organizations were tasked during Hurricane. Lt. Col. Hurley noted, "This was the first time that the 253rd Combat Communications Group, the 267th Combat Communication Squadron, and the 212th Engineer Installation Squadron forces came under the direction of 102nd Intelligence Wing." The benefit of this joint environment soon became evident as soldiers from the 79th Troop Command filled sandbags in Freetown, Mass. There was a need for a forklift driver and "The 79 Troop Command had no forklift capable bodies" Lt. Col. Hurley noted. Along with other airmen Lt. Col Hurley sent two forklift-qualified Combat Communications airmen for night-shift. "This is important, because it was an integrated effort with 102d LRS and Combat Communications sharing the same critical tasking in support of the 79th Troop Command's and bagging mission in Freetown."

As Hurricane Sandy's effects lessened and the damage was assessed, it was clear that Cape Cod was quite lucky in comparison to other areas of the east coast. Although there was no major response needed from the Massachusetts National Guard or the airmen of the 102nd Intelligence Wing Maj. Gen. L. Scott Rice, The Adjutant General, Massachusetts National Guard noted, "Overall it was a comforting reassurance for the citizens of Massachusetts that we were ready to go." Lastly, while looking at the training and experience gained from going through Hurricane Sandy, along with the minimal damage communities sustained, Col. Patrick Cobb, Commander, 102 Intelligence Wing stated, "To me, I think from the overall perspective of taxpayers and everyone else, this is the best of both worlds."