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Commanders in Springs line up 'superstorm' help

By: JAKOB RODGERS
October 29, 2012
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photo - First responders in military truck check the area parking lot near the Ocean City Fishing Pier as Hurricane Sandy bears down on the East Coast, Monday, Oct. 29, 2012, in Ocean City, Md. Hurricane Sandy continued on its path Monday, forcing the shutdown of mass transit, schools and financial markets, sending coastal residents fleeing for higher ground, and threatening a dangerous mix of high winds and soaking rain.  (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) Photo by STF
First responders in military truck check the area parking lot near the Ocean City Fishing Pier as Hurricane Sandy bears down on the East Coast, Monday, Oct. 29, 2012, in Ocean City, Md. Hurricane Sandy continued on its path Monday, forcing the shutdown of mass transit, schools and financial markets, sending coastal residents fleeing for higher ground, and threatening a dangerous mix of high winds and soaking rain. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) Photo by STF 

Commanders at Peterson Air Force Base moved disaster teams into place and set aside four military installations for emergency crews as the Hurricane Sandy churned toward the East Coast on Monday.

U.S. Northern Command directed about 140 people with the command into place to direct the military’s response to Hurricane Sandy, said Lt. Cmdr. Bill Lewis, a spokesman for the command, which is headquartered at Peterson. The number of involved in the military’s response was likely to rise.

“When the sun rises tomorrow, I think we’ll all understand the scope of what we’re faced with,” he said.

The command worked with local officials in Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island, placing helicopters and para-rescue teams on 24-hour standby while dispatching preparedness experts across the region.

Four regional medical planners were dispatched to the East Coast, as were experts in using Air Force planes to deal with the storm’s aftermath, he said.

At Peterson, C-130 aircraft and reservists with the 302nd Airlift Wing waited on standby to for a call to help with the relief efforts along the East Coast, said Ann Skarban, a wing spokeswoman.

Air Force Reserve Command spent the day gauging how many of its units had planes and crews available to respond, and the Peterson unit was among the units ready to go on short notice, Skarban said.

The command also placed National Guard generals in charge of both state and federal troops, Lewis said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is leading the federal government’s response the storm. Those people dispatched by the command were expected to help plan and coordinate the Defense Department’s response rather than head into the field for rescue missions.

“Really a lot of what we push forward are planners,” Lewis said.

It’s the kind of disaster-relief mission that’s become common for the command since its creation in 2002.

The command offered resources in response to Hurricane Isaac earlier this year, and has responded to every major U.S. natural disaster since its inception, including the Waldo Canyon fire.

It typically works with state and local officials to connect them to resources, such as the Air Force’s fleet of C-130s.

“If there are any gaps out there in capabilities, that’s where we come into play,” Lewis said.

Contact Jakob Rodgers: 476-1654

Twitter @jakobrodgers

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