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'Spartan' aircrew helps bring power to New York

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A C-27J Spartan aircraft crew from the 175th Wing, Maryland Air National Guard, flew power generators and other equipment to New York in support of Hurricane Sandy relief efforts Saturday, Nov. 3.

ANG crews from Ohio, Mississippi and Maryland flew the first-ever C-27J domestic operations missions transporting power generation equipment and HUMVEEs to Stewart Air National Guard Base, N.Y., to help provide needed power resources in the affected area.

ANG domestic operations provide support during and in the aftermath of a domestic emergency, in this case Hurricane Sandy.

"It is really nice knowing that when flying the C-27J that if you have to get to the small airfields that the big planes can't, you can provide the supplies for the people who need it," said Master Sgt. Matt Kerstetter, a loadmaster from 135th Airlift Squadron here.

The C-27J is a medium-sized military transport. It has the similar logistical and maintenance characteristics of the C-130J Hercules aircraft and has access a wide range of airfields, including short, unprepared strips while transporting heavy loads.

"The C-27J can get into some smaller airfields due to weight restrictions," said Capt. Paul Mercier, co-pilot from 135th ASQ.

According to 1st Lt. Ken V. McGee, a public affairs officer for the Ohio Army National Guard, the 1484th Transportation Company was convoying about 70 trucks and 118 soldiers to set up a food and water distribution point in New York City as part of Ohio's response to assist neighboring states. An advance team was airlifted by three C-27Js: one each from Maryland, Ohio and Mississippi ANG units.

"This gets the equipment there faster than on the ground," said Lt. Col. Gary Laubach, an aircraft commander from 135th ASQ.

The C-27J crew flew their plane to Macon, Ga., October 27 - safely out of the path of Hurricane Sandy. On Wednesday, they returned and were immediately put on alert for disaster relief missions.

"It feels different when you are so close to home and closer to your state," said Laubach while talking about the difference between this mission and past disaster relief missions. "One of our pilot's mothers is in the affected area and will be out of power for a week. This mission was great - extremely satisfying. It feels good to get stuff to the people who need it; I only wish I could be there when the generators get plugged in where the people need the electricity. This is the best mission you could get."

"It was nice to provide a little help to the folks in the New York area. It feels good," said Mercier. "This is close to home and I have friends in the New York area. Hopefully I have been helping our friends in the area."

According to Mercier, the aircrew worked hard to avoid refueling on the mission. Fuel is at premium in the hurricane affected areas.

"Two factors were in play, said Mercier. "We do not want to use any additional fuel out of Newburgh. We planned for our fuel burn. We came up with a good plan to arrive back with enough reserves."

Mercier was deployed earlier in the year to Afghanistan and was happy to do a state-side mission.

"We finally get to do what the Guard is designed to do," said Mercier. "It is nice to do the state-side mission, which is why a lot of people signed up in the National Guard. It was very successful and showed the capabilities the C-27J."

"It is a great experience to get out there and help people and do what we are meant to do in a National Guard unit," said Senior Airman Ian Beanland, a loadmaster from 135th ASQ. "We do a lot of training with the C-27J, today is one of these days we executed the mission as planned."

"It was very rewarding after watching the news and being able to help," said Kerstetter.

Article by Tech. Sgt. David Speicher, 175th Wing Public Affairs