Operation BIG ICE is a BIG DEAL for Barnes
By Capt. Matthew T. Mutti, Wing Executive Staff Officer, 104th Fighter Wing
/ Published January 10, 2009
BARNES AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Massachusetts -- Members of the Mass. Air National Guard deployed 15 December to provide aid to neighboring communities battling from the devastation caused by the December 11th ice storm, which left much of Central and Western Massachusetts without power.
29 Airmen from the 104th Fighter Wing in Westfield, and 28 Airmen from the 102nd Intelligence Wing on Cape Cod, converged in Warwick, Massachusetts to ease the workload of town employees who have been working around the clock to clear roads since the evening of 11 December.
"The town has been without power since Thursday," said Chief Brian Peters, Warwick Chief of Police. "The effort by the Mass. Air National Guard is critical to us clearing the roads so National Grid can come in to restore power."
Warwick's four highway department personnel, police, and volunteer fire department had been working to clear the roads, but their efforts have been limited by both equipment and manpower shortages.
Chief Peters added that most of the workers have been helping clear the road while also helping their families as they struggle through the damage to their own homes and properties. The efforts by the 57 members of the Mass. Air National Guard made an instant impact by clearing many road ways and removing tree limbs off of most power lines.
On 16 December the teams were reassembled for recovery efforts in Beckett Mass. where again their efforts made an immediate impact. Teams of Air Guard members cleared trees off roads and allowed utility and emergency vehicles clear access to the communities' residence.
The effort to provide support is part of a larger effort directed by the Mass. National Guard in an operation called Operation BIG ICE. During this operation 1,300 Airmen and Soldiers worked with civilian authorities throughout the Commonwealth to clear roadways, help preserve peace and provide relief to families who have been relocated to emergency shelters. Members of the Mass. National Guard provided aid through 160 independent missions affecting much of of Western and Central Mass.
"The Mass. National Guard is the Commonwealth's first military responders to natural and manmade emergencies," said Col. Robert T. Brooks, 104th Fighter Wing Commander. "We stand ready to support either with manpower support or equipment when ever the call for help is made."