SUNDERLAND, Mass. - With the power out and many roads still impassible; the National Guard was called in to help local authorities to help ensure their communities were safe. The National Guard was dispersed to support a number of communities in Western Massachusetts. Gov. Deval L. Patrick mobilized the Guard to assist with clearing debris and ensuring the citizens of the commonwealth were safe.
Towns like Sunderland Mass., called upon the Guard to visit the community members, traveling door to door, ensuring they were safe and new that shelters had been established.
“With no power, and no phones, our residents do not have a way to let us know they need help,” said Robert Ahearn, Sunderland Fire Chief. While speaking to the members of the Mass. Air National Guard’s Security Forces unit he asked to assist, “I need you to be our eyes, ears, and voice, letting each member of the community know that there is help for them if they needed it and that we are doing everything we can to get power back on in the town.”
The members of the 104th Fighter Wing’s team are not strangers to door-to-door wellness checks, less than five months ago they performed them in Springfield, Mass, following the tornados that whipped through the city, and multiple towns along its 30 mile path of destruction.
Teams were directed by town officials to ensure the older citizens and those with disabilities were not stuck in their houses with no way to get out. In South Hadley, Mass., a team of Air National Guard members were directed to clear a part of the road and driveway for a disabled elderly man who could not get out of his home.
“We are here to assist in any way we can,” said Chief Master Sgt. Robert Beaulieu, a member of the 104th Fighter Wing and South Hadley Resident. “The town officials are conscious of the multitude of effects this storm has had on its community.”
Teams were also asked to support the local Departments of Public Works, clearing roads for the utility companies to be able to restore power. Airmen like Tech. Sgt. Shawn Amell, who normally works to support the flying operations of the F-15 Fighter aircraft, picked up a chainsaw to clear roads in Hampden and Wilbraham.
“We are called to serve,” said Amell. “This is just one part of the Guard, helping people in the community…or defending the homeland, whatever the mission, we do it with pride.”The Massachusetts National Guard members will continue to support this effort as long as needed, more than 48 hours have passed since the last snow flake fell, but the members of the Air Guard are not slowing their support for the neighborhoods they are part of.