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104th Security Forces Assist Displaced Residents

104th Fighter Wing, Westfield, MA. - -- As the City of Springfield absorbed another severe weather event, many residents who lost power during the October 30th storm found their way to Central High School to seek respite from the frigid temperatures. For seniors, the infirm and the very young, the hazards associated with the austere storm related conditions present an acute set of problems. For these vulnerable citizens, the presence of the Massachusetts National Guard is particularly helpful in bolstering the resolve of a population that has endured considerable hardship over the last year.

Members of the 104th Fighter Wing Security Forces are providing all manners of assistance at the emergency shelter at Central High School that is serving as a sanctuary for senior citizens as old as 93 and infants of only a few months. During the day, approximately 100 residents occupy the gymnasium and 400 people gather at night seeking shelter. Three meals are served throughout the day while Guardsmen maintain a watchful presence.

Betty, a Springfield resident, was worried about her dog and anxious to go home. However, she was grateful for the support of the Airmen. "It is very good to have them here, they make me feel at home and I feel safer having them around," she said.

Another resident, Rick Paiva agreed, "They are doing a good job and it is comforting to see the uniform."

Over 400 Guardsmen, including members of the 104th Security Forces, have been activated by Governor Deval Patrick in response to the storm aftermath. Operation Snow Harvest is ongoing and Guardsmen are responding to requests from affected cities and towns.

Airman 1st Class Steven Vigneault of Springfield and Senior Airman Mike Patnaude of Chicopee were glad to help at Central High School. "There is a heartfelt gratitude from the people here. We can't go down the hall without someone saying thank you," observed Vigneault. "I love it-the kids have so much energy. They usually only see us on TV but now they get to see us in real life," said Patnaude.

104th Security Forces will continue to provide support at the shelter and throughout the region until power is restored and the Guard fulfills its mission.