By Staff Sgt. John Wilkes, 180th Fighter Wing, Ohio Air NAtional Guard
/ Published December 10, 2017
180TH FIGHTER WING, Ohio -- More than 300 members of the Ohio National Guard have answered the call after four historic hurricanes ravaged parts of Florida, Texas, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
More than 90 days after four hurricanes impacted the U.S. and territories, much of the affected areas are still in recovery, and Puerto Rico is still without power. To support relief efforts, four members of the 180th Fighter Wing, Ohio National Guard, deployed to various locations across the country in support of hurricane relief efforts. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria resulted in catastrophic damage to large portions of these areas.
Upon arrival, 180FW members integrated with local, state and federal organizations to provide defense support to civil authorities and assist with intra-service support and coordination for hurricane and disaster relief efforts in areas most impacted.
“There are a lot of moving pieces in disaster situations,” said Maj. Peter Drury, a chaplain assigned to the 180FW, who deployed to the National Guard Bureau’s Office of the Chaplains in Washington, D.C. “Each group that responds has different capabilities and it is important for the command staff to know what capabilities are at their disposal.”
While assigned to the National Guard Communication Center’s Adaptive Battle Staff, Drury assisted the Joint Office of the Chaplains, communicating, coordinating and collaborating with partners across various states and territories to establish effective pastoral support, to include North American Aerospace Defense Command, Federal Emergency Management Agency, United States Army North, Air Forces Northern command, and various other National Guard offices.
According to Col. Michael Reynolds, deputy director of the National Guard Bureau’s Office of the Chaplains, Chaplain Drury’s responsibilities were a key part of the effort to provide an accurate picture of all affected areas to the Chief of the National Guard Bureau and to partners in sister services.
“Providing religious support is very important in disaster situations,” said Drury. “Both to those directly impacted and to first responders.”
Drury was able to speak with a chaplain providing direct pastoral care to more than 300 first responders.
“A chaplain in the U.S. Virgin Islands called me to request support as he was the only chaplain for three different islands,” said Drury. “I was the second call he made, the first was to his wife.”
“One of the most important things a chaplain can do is to provide calm in chaos,” he continued.
“The impact that providing support and care can have is amazing,” said Drury. “There has been an overwhelming appreciation of the support provided.”
Hurricane’s Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria have killed more than 300 people and resulted in hundreds of billions of dollars in damage.
Command & Control
Supporting disaster relief efforts requires coordination on local, state and federal levels.
Chief Master Sgt. Paul Martin, command and control manager for the 180FW, was assigned to the Air National Guard Readiness Center at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, as a part of the Crisis Action Team command post.
Martin was tasked with reviewing requested aid from more than 70 sites across 17 locations to provide airlift support to units directly impacted by the hurricanes.
“It was an awesome experience, being a part of the crisis action team, working alongside so many professionals dedicated to the mission of savings lives and supporting relief operations,” said Martin.
The ANG was heavily involved before, during and after the hurricanes made landfall.
Martin worked with state and national leadership at the National Guard Coordination Center to compile a daily hurricane situation report, provided to the Chief of the National Guard Bureau.
“Being able to communicate with people in the affected areas and to assure them help was on the way was very gratifying,” said Martin. “I spoke directly with the command post superintendent in Puerto Rico and reassured her that help was on the way. She told me how grateful she was and appreciated my call to check on the status of the base and personnel.”
“That alone made it worth it to me,” said Martin.
Hurricane relief efforts will likely continue for many months, potentially years.
“There was so much support and volunteerism,” said Martin. “A lot of units and Airmen volunteered support and equipment. At times there were more aircraft available than missions needing flown. This just goes to show you how dedicated our Airmen are to supporting each other and those in need.”
Master Sgt. Jill Bonnough, logistics manager assigned to the 180FW, deployed for approximately four weeks to the U.S. Virgin Islands to provide logistical support to joint units and service members.
Logistics managers are responsible for coordinating much of the equipment and resources needed to move the people and supplies used to provide support and accomplish the mission.
“My primary responsibility was to coordinate orders and airlift for the service members who were coming home as their deployments were ending,” said Bonnough.
To accomplish this, Bonnough worked with the National Guard Bureau Crisis Action Team, Tanker and Airlift Control Center, and the 601st Air Mobility Directorate to procure and allocate airlift to the units.
“Coordinating airlift with multiple units to different parts of the country was challenging,” said Bonnough.
“Sometimes it took a couple of days to finalize all of the details about how a specific unit was going to get home,” she said. “Though they had been there for a month or more, they understood the delays. When I was finally able to tell them I found a way home for their unit they were beyond excited. And to me, the best part of my job is getting people back to their families after a deployment.”
National Guard units from around the country responded to requests for aid following the devastating hurricanes.
At the state level, National Guard service members may be called up in times of domestic emergencies or need.
The National Guard's state mission is perhaps the most visible and well known. Nearly everyone has seen or heard of National Guard units responding to natural disasters or other emergency situations.
The Ohio Air National Guard’s 180FW rapidly responds to any natural or manmade disaster saving lives, easing human suffering and protecting property.