Military Airlift Brings Gear to Help With Sandy Repairs

Linda Welz/U.S. Air Force

The Pentagon has begun an airlift of 69 vehicles from California to help restore power in New York and New Jersey in the wake of superstorm Sandy.

Utility crews and their trucks are driving into the New York area from all parts of the country, including some teams from California that will arrive in three to five days after driving cross country on flat bed trailers.

To accelerate the repairs, the Federal Emergency Management Agency asked the Pentagon to transport 69 vehicles from Southern California Edison into the hard hit areas of the east coast.

Air Mobility Command arranged for five huge C-5 cargo planes and 12 C-17 aircraft from a dozen bases across the country to travel to March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, Calif., where they would pick up the equipment to be taken east.

Air crews worked all night Wednesday to load 60 passengers and approximately 632 tons of equpiment and supplies onto the aircraft bound for New York.

The first of the planes is scheduled to arrive Thursday afternoon at Stewart Air National Guard base in Newburgh, N.Y., which is about 60 miles north of Manhattan. The additional planes will continue to fly in Thursday and over the course of the coming days.

The planes are carrying 10 double bucket cherrypicker trucks, four line trucks, a flatbed digger, eight trouble trucks, a mobile command center, three Rangers, 14 companion trucks, two mechanic trucks, and a slew of F-150 pickup trucks .

Most of the utility personnel who will man the equipment have already been flown by commercial air to the east coast.

About 10,000 National Guardsmen have been mobilized by states affected by Sandy's destructive power. At FEMA's request the Defense Department can augment the assistance provided by the National Guard

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has taken a lead role in helping to "dewater" New York. They are working to deploy 100 powerful water pumps that are being delivered to FEMA mobilization centers. U.S. Northern Command is also providing an additional hundred pumps to the effort.

The Corps has also provided 200 power generators to four locations in the New York and New Jersey area that can be deployed by FEMA as needed.

Three Navy ships including the helicopter carrier USS Wasp were pre-positioned by the Navy near the New Jersey coast, but they have not been asked to assist with relief efforts.

If FEMA requests the use of the ships, the Wasp could serve as a landing deck for helicopters helping with relief efforts. In a pre-emptive move the Navy has also sent six helicopters to the Wasp in case they are needed ashore.

The Wasp is not carrying helicopters aboard, but if its services are requested by FEMA it could serve as a landing deck for helicopters helping with relief efforts.

On Wednesday, per a request from the Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Transportation Command airlifted in about 120 medical personnel to New York City to augment medical staff providing care to nursing homes and at-risk elderly patients.