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Local Military Bases Playing Roles In Hurricane Response

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB) — A big part of the state’s preparations for Hurricane Sandy is taking place at Barnes Air National Guard Base and Westover Air Reserve Base.

Out of 16 C-5’s, only four are staying at Westover because of the high winds. The others are either away on other missions or are heading to MacDill Air Force Base in Florida. Lt. Col. James bishop, Chief of Public Affairs at Westover Air Reserve Base, said MacDill was chosen because it has the capacity to take the planes and is out of harms way. For the four that are staying in Chicopee, precautions are being taken.

“We’re going to load them down with heavy equipment so that they won’t move because these planes are built to fly,” said Bishop.

Even without most of the C-5’s, Westover is busy. It’s the staging area for the entire FEMA Region One which includes all of New England. There are trailers full of tarps, food, cots and water. They along with a half dozen mobile command centers are ready for deployment.

The base is also the staging area for the Army Corps of Engineers.

“The Army Corps of Engineers are handling all of the giant generators over here,” said Robert Perreault, Emergency Management Director at Westover. “And those are for, you know, in case maybe a hospital is going down or a water supply or something which needs to get generated.”

Unlike at Westover, all of the planes are still at Barnes Air National Guard Base. The only difference is that they’ve all been moved into hangars. The F-15’s remain as usual on standby for deployment against any threat to national airspace. The response to hurricane sandy is in addition to this mission. Major Matthew Mutti, Executive Office of the 104th Fighter Wing said they’ve already brought in one thousand extra guard members for patrol and other duties. An additional 2000 will be available for clean up.

“We’re talking about chain saw crews cutting down limbs to clear roadways for emergency vehicles,” said Mutti. “We’re talking about folks positioning sand bags to stop some of the water from flooding out local areas.”

“Throughout Western Mass and the eastern part of the state, wherever the need is, the National Guard will be there for you,” said Mutti.


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