In early Nov., Hurricane Sandy devastated the East Coast claiming lives, destroying homes and business and flooding several states within the region. Under the direction of FEMA, service members were deployed to affected areas, in addition to the local emergency services personnel and first responders, to provide assistance in support of Hurricane Sandy relief.
Eight Andrews Airmen from the 11th Civil Engineering Squadron arrived at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., within 15 hours of notification to support relief efforts Nov. 2. The team was assigned to the 331st Air Expeditionary Group joint task force, which consisted of Airmen from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., and the RED HORSE team from Hurlburt Field, Fla.
"We were staged at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, until we received orders to Fort Hamilton, N.Y.," said Tech. Sgt. Eddie White, 11th CES water and fuel systems maintenance craftsman. "Once there, we became part of the 19th Army Battalion in charge of Task Force Pump Operations."
The group's mission was to go out and make contact with the local emergency service teams, provide flood assessments and remove storm surge water from basements and low elevation areas.
"We removed about 100,000 gallons of water from the high rise areas, which affected about 6100 residents," said Cox. "Getting the water out was important because it enabled them to get the electricity back into those homes."
The Andrews team alone pumped an estimated 5.7 million gallons of water, and the joint task force in total removed approximately 13.6 million gallons of storm surge water and raw sewage from areas in Coney Island, Staten Island, Long Beach and Breezy Point, N.Y., said Tech Sgt. William Cox, 11th CES water and fuel systems maintenance craftsman.
"I am thankful to have led an awesome team of engineers from the 11th CES," said White. "The guys were true professionals in every way, which made part of my job easy."
The task force was made up of about 200 Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines. They worked as a joint team by day and shared quarters in an open gymnasium at night.
"To work amongst fellow engineers from other bases and services gave me an increased sense of camaraderie within the services," said White.
Cox and White also praised the local emergency services personnel.
"The local New York fire department and police department provided first class support and were very appreciative of us being there," said Cox. "We believe there was a level of mutual respect and trust among all parties involved."
The Airmen returned to Andrews after 14 days and each of them shared a common sentiment about the whole experience; "humbling."
"I think some of the stories we heard were what affected us the most," said Cox. "It was humbling and it made you appreciate what you have and know that in a moment everything can be taken. It was also humbling to see how resilient the people of New York were despite all that had happened."