National Guard troops mobilized for Sandy response

Left to right, Sgt. Stephen Vergilio and Spc. Matthew Merklinger going door to door to get the people who stayed to consider evacuating.


By DAVID S. CLOUD | Tribune Washington Bureau | Published: October 31, 2012

WASHINGTON — More than 10,000 National Guard troops in 13 states have been mobilized to assist in the response to Hurricane Sandy, including more than 2,200 who are assisting with recovery efforts in New York, the Pentagon said Wednesday.

Eric Durr, a spokesman for New York’s Division of Military and Naval Affairs, said that 650 National Guard soldiers and air personnel are deployed on Long Island, while another 400 are in New York City, with another 400 on the way.

The Guard is using Humvees and trucks to clear debris, rescue stranded people and to help transport local officials in flooded areas.

“They’re taking cops and fireman around in Humvees helping to rescue people,” Durr said.

Thirty guard personnel are helping to lug fuel to the 13th floor of Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan, where the facility’s emergency generators are located, he said.

Ten Black Hawk helicopters and other aircraft are being used for aerial surveillance and are assisting local first responders, he said.

Two are being used to fly personnel from the Federal Emergency Management Agency over affected areas to conduct aerial assessments and one is ferrying New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Durr said.

An additional 350 troops from southern and western parts of the state are on their way to Camp Smith in Westchester County, 30 miles from New York City, which is serving as a staging center.

Durr said the Guard was employing 573 vehicles and that 40 additional Humvees were being driven south from Fort Drum upstate. Six patrol boats operated by the New York Naval Militia, a local version of the Navy and Marine Corps reserves, are assisting the recovery effort in New York Harbor and the surrounding waters, he said.

In hard-hit New Jersey, 2,070 Guard troops are assisting in the recovery effort, he said, and another 2,100 have been activated in Pennsylvania.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has assessment teams on the ground in New York and other states to look at flooded tunnels and subways, Lt. Col Tom Crosson, a Pentagon spokesman, said. “They are doing an assessment of what equipment is needed” to help pump out the water, Crosson said.

Aerial views of the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy to the New Jersey coast taken during a search and rescue mission by 1-150 Assault Helicopter Battalion, New Jersey Army National Guard, Oct. 30, 2012.