Wing stands alert for Hurricane Irene
By Maj. Dale Greer, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
/ Published November 20, 2011
KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD , LOUISVILLE, Ky -- The National Guard Bureau placed 24 Kentucky aircrew members and two C-130 aircraft on alert here Aug. 26 to 29 to fly relief missions across the East Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene.
Meanwhile, more than 15 members of the Kentucky Air Guard's 123rd Special Tactics Squadron were slated to deploy to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., on Aug. 28 to carry out water rescue missions as directed by state and federal officials.
The airlift sorties ultimately weren't needed, however, and the special tactics deployment was canceled just hours before the team was set to take off from Louisville, said Col. Greg Nelson, commander of the Kentucky Air Guard's 123rd Airlift Wing.
"Thankfully, the damage along the East Coast from Hurricane Irene wasn't as bad as initially anticipated, and officials in the affected states determined that they didn't need our assistance," Nelson explained.
"Nevertheless, the alert posture was good training for every Airman in the wing. As always, the Kentucky Air National Guard stands ready to answer our nation's call for assistance, any time, anywhere."
The wing's special tactics troops include pararescuemen who are specially trained in water rescue missions and emergency medical care.
They typically deploy with a range of dedicated rescue equipment like Zodiac motorboats and diving gear in order to carry out a broad spectrum of relief and recovery operations.
Other Airmen in the unit include Combat Controllers, who have the capability of establishing air traffic control at any location, from a concrete landing strip at a non-functional airport to an improvised helicopter landing zone on a highway overpass.
The unit has been instrumental in hurricane recovery operations before, conducting rescue missions and operating a helicopter landing zone in New Orleans that airlifted more than 11,000 people to safety following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
"We're always prepared to conduct a full range of rescue operations anywhere in the United States as directed by civil authorities," said Lt. Col. Jeff Wilkinson, the unit's commander.