Jersey’s National Guard Takes Off For Hurricane Harvey Relief

Staff Sgt. Robert Hawlik loads his gear into a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter in preparation for a humanitarian assistance mission in response to Hurricane Harvey. (Photo courtesy Sgt. 1st Class Wayne Woolley)

JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST – In the wake of devastating flooding that has torn through Texas after Hurricane Harvey made landfall and forced over 30,000 people to abandon their homes, a team of New Jersey National Guard airborne search-and-rescue experts left from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst on August 30 to aid in the ongoing recovery efforts.

The team, made up of two crews of Army National Guard UH-60 “Black Hawk” helicopters and four Air National Guard Tactical Air Control Party specialists, all volunteered for the mission, which could last up to 60 days.

“We’re hoping we can do some good down there,” said Air Guard Master Sgt. Chris Donohue. “It’s a rewarding mission to be able to help people in America. People are used to seeing the military go overseas. Now people get to see their return on investment and all the good things the military can do here.”

Senior Airman Ryan O’Grady loads his gear into a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter in preparation for a humanitarian assistance mission in response to Hurricane Harvey. (Photo courtesy Sgt. 1st Class Wayne Woolley)

Helicopter crews from the Army Guard’s 1-150th Assault Helicopter Battalion and the Air Guard’s 227th Air Support Operations Squadron often train together as part of New Jersey’s Task Force One Urban Search and Rescue. Members of that group have already been sent to aid in storm relief.

According to Brigadier General Michael L. Cunniff, The Adjunct General of the New Jersey National Guard, if civil authorities in Texas request additional manpower through the National Guard Bureau, New Jersey is prepared to send even more troops to help.

The mission is especially close to home for Army Guard Chief Warrant Officer 3 Quentin Hastings, an Oklahoma native, as many of his relatives live in Houston and the surrounding area. He has been in touch with a cousin who lives there through social media.

“Last I heard was that he was in an apartment building with 20 feet of water on their first two floors,” Hastings said. “We’re all eager to get down there and help out.”

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Sara Grillo is the Assistant News Editor/Writer at Micromedia Publications. She has lived in numerous areas within Monmouth and Ocean Counties for the past 9 years. Grillo studied Journalism and Communication Arts at Ramapo College and has held positions in Marketing, Public Relations and Sales prior to writing for Micromedia. Readers can contact her by emailing [email protected]