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Operation BIG ICE 2008 
Staff Sgt. Patrick J. Kelley of Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 181st Infantry Regiment, sets up a cot in a storm shelter. 
Staff Sgt. Patrick J. Kelley of Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 181st Infantry Regiment, sets up a cot in a storm shelter at the Fitchburg Senior Center. Kelley is one of more than 1,500 Massachusetts National Guardsmen on state active duty as part of storm recovery efforts across the state. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Steven C. Eaton)(Released)  
Pfc. Steven C. Eaton, 65th Public Affairs Operations Center 


MILFORD, Mass. (Dec. 16, 2008) -- A furious ice storm swept across Massachusetts Thursday, leaving hundreds of thousands of residents without power in the northern and western parts of the state. Gov. Deval Patrick declared a state of emergency and the Massachusetts National Guard activated more than 500 of its Soldiers and Airmen to assist those in need.

There were endless mountains of debris to clear and thousands of people stranded in their homes without power and in potential danger. The men and women of the Guard braved the cold and falling ice to aid their fellow citizens.

There was another mission that did not require Soldiers to work out in the cold, but brought them instead inside shelters to aid those left without heat, food or electricity. Members of the Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 181st Infantry Regiment were sent to two shelters in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. The first was located in an old National Guard armory, which had been converted into a senior center. Inside, Soldiers like Spc. James Povini and Staff Sgt. Patrick Kelley set up cots and helped get people situated into their temporary home.  

Across town at the Fitchburg Middle School, Capt. John Quinn and a few other Soldiers ran another shelter for people displaced by the storm. The day before, Quinn and his Soldiers cleared debris from the streets of West Boylston, but on this day, they found themselves clearing space for people seeking shelter. 

“We are here to provide support to the shelter, (and) help reassure people,” said Quinn. “Morale is high, and the Soldiers are happy to be helping out the community,” he added.  

First Lt. Robert Charbonnier, who was located at the Senior Center in Fitchburg, said that they would be there as long as they were needed and it was good to see the difference they were making by helping the citizens of Fitchburg during this trying time.

Across the western and northern parts of the state, Soldiers and Airmen cleared roads, provided emergency power and communications and helped keep our citizens warm during their time of need.