By 1st Lt. Miranda Summers Lowe
D.C. National Guard
Approximately 150 Army and Air Guard personnel reported to emergency support missions as early as 5 a.m. Oct. 30, providing support at fire and police stations and traffic control points across the District of Columbia in response to Hurricane Sandy.
As the city gets back on its feet, approximately 90 D.C. National Guard Soldiers and Airmen are conducting 24-hour operations. The D.C. Guard was called up to support the city of Washington during Hurricane Sandy late Oct. 29.
“Our hearts go out to those who have had their homes or property damaged,” said Maj. Gen. Errol R. Schwartz, commanding general of the D.C. National Guard. “We are doing everything we can to help the city return to normal operations.”
A detail of six humvees provided transportation to Vincent Gray, mayor of Washington, Schwartz, Paul Quander, deputy mayor for public safety and justice and other D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency officials.
“We didn't know what we would find out there, and we were prepared for the worst,” said Gray in a press conference Oct. 30. “I express appreciation to the D.C. National Guard and Maj. Gen. Schwartz.”
Most of the troops spent the night in the D.C. Armory, on standby for emergency missions.
“We were expecting the storm to be worse,” said Spc. Abigail Felix, who usually works in recruiting. “We were more prepared and more organized.”
D.C. National Guard flight operations were continuing, despite a power outage in their main facility.
The 113th Wing, D.C. Air National Guard provided a complement of security forces and administration for the emergency response package.
“Good job making the D.C. National Guard represent what we can do downtown. This is good experience pulling together our Air and Army assets which will serve us well in the future,” said Brig. Gen. Marc Sasseville, 113th Wing Commander.
For some of the airmen, it was their first chance to participate in a storm response mission. Staff Sgt. Jesse McCarley of the 113th Security Forces Squadron was excited to be participating in a joint services mission.
“Since the Air Guard operates out of Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, we don't always have the time to preposition. During this operation, we were actively involved,” he said.
Airmen 1st Class John Mazepa, also of 113th Security Forces Squadron, echoed the sentiment.
“I'm still learning. I just graduated. I was out at District Six assisting a police station. A city councilwomen came to see us, and told us how much she appreciated seeing National Guardsmen in her ward,” he said.
“It feels good to be part of something so big,” said Sgt. Merissa Alcala of the 372nd Military Police Battalion. “I know I'm ready for future emergency missions. I know my gear is ready and I can jump in a vehicle and complete a mission.”