Virginia Guard aviators deliver supplies to iced-in Tangier Island

Virginia Guard aviators deliver supplies to iced-in Tangier Island

A Virginia Army National Guard aviation crew from the Sandston-based 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment delivers food, mail and medicine Feb. 19, 2015, to iced-in Tangier Island, Va. The 1.2 square mile island has been iced in since freezing temperatures blanketed the commonwealth last week, making routine seaport deliveries impossible. The state active duty mission was authorized by Governor Terry McAullife’s Declaration of Emergency issued on Monday and coordinated by the Virginia Department of Emergency Management with Maryland public safety officials and the United States Coast Guard. The aviators first picked up Accomack County personnel to help move the needed cargo, then flew to Chrisfield, Md. to pick up the supplies before heading to Tangier Island where the aircraft and cargo were met by residents of island. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

TANGIER ISLAND, Va. — Two Virginia National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters from the Sandston-based 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment headed east Feb. 19, 2015, flying over the ice-packed Chesapeake Bay to deliver food, medicine and mail to Tangier Island, a 1.2 square mile island in the Bay that had been iced in for nearly a week, making routine seaport deliveries impossible. The state active duty mission was authorized under the emergency declaration issued by Governor Terry McAullife on Feb. 16, when Winter Storm Octavia covered the commonwealth in snow and knocked temperatures down into the single digits.

“Accomack County contacted us to see if there was any way critical supplies could be delivered to Tangier Island since icy conditions were preventing boats from making their usual deliveries,” said State Coordinator Jeff Stern. “We coordinated with Maryland public safety officials and the Coast Guard, and tasked National Guard aviators to carry out the mission at the direction of the governor. This was executed within hours after we received the request thanks to this week’s emergency declaration.”

The aviation crews flew first to the Accomack County Airport, picking up emergency management personnel who could assist with moving the several hundred pounds of expected cargo. There, the helicopters fueled up before heading to Crisfield, Md., where they were first met by a U.S. Postal Service truck, packed with mail for the iced-in Tangier Island residents. Then, a truck loaded with milk, eggs, bread, potatoes and medicine was unloaded and the goods hauled to the helicopter in the blistering wind across an icy runway. From there, the crew flew to Tangier Island where they were met by half a dozen pick-up trucks and a small crowd of Tangier Island residents who assisted in unloading the cargo.

“I am really proud of how quickly and effectively our air crews responded to this request,” said Brig. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia. “They displayed the Guard motto of ‘Always Ready, Always There.’”

After the cargo was unloaded on Tangier Island, the residents took a few minutes to shake the hands of the aviators, thanking them for bringing in the much-needed supplies.

“Our entire job and our role is really focused on the community and on helping them out,” explained Chief Warrant Officer 3 Joshua Jacobsen, who helped pilot the mission and who moved to Virginia from Minnesota two years ago. “It felt good for me personally to give back to the state that I feel has really embraced and welcomed me as a Virginian.”

Tangier Island had been iced in since before Valentine’s Day when freezing temperatures swept the commonwealth, making regular deliveries of mail and supplies impossible.

“We all forget sometimes how great it is to have our military, and they keep us free, but in these situations it’s not just to protect our outer boundaries, but to help the citizens as well,” said Charles Pruitt, director of public safety for Accomack County. “It’s great to have the National Guard available to do this for us.”

Original News Release:

RICHMOND, Va. — As part of the Commonwealth’s continued support to local governments following consistently frigid temperatures, Governor Terry McAuliffe authorized Virginia Army National Guard aviators to deliver food, mail and medical supplies to residents of Tangier Island yesterday; an action carried out in conjunction with the emergency declaration issued Feb. 16. The 1.2 square mile island, located in the Chesapeake Bay, has been unable to receive routine seaport deliveries due to icy conditions.

“Accomack County contacted us to see if there was any way critical supplies could be delivered to Tangier Island since icy conditions were preventing boats from making their usual deliveries,” said State Coordinator Jeff Stern. “We coordinated with Maryland public safety officials and the Coast Guard, and tasked National Guard aviators to carry out the mission at the direction of the governor. This was executed within hours after we received the request thanks to this week’s emergency declaration.”

The aviators responsible for the successful mission are from the Sandston-based 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment and flew the mission on a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter.

“I am really proud of how quickly and effectively our air crews responded to this request,” said Brig. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia. “They displayed the Guard motto of ‘Always Ready, Always There.’ This is just another example of the great partnership we have with VDEM and how that partnership helps keep the citizens of the commonwealth safe.”

The crew flew first to the Accomack County airport to pick up emergency management personnel to assist in moving the needed cargo, then flew to Crisfield, Maryland to pick up the supplies before heading to Tangier Island where the aircraft and cargo were met by residents of the island.

“Our entire job and our role is really focused on the community and on helping them out,” explained Chief Warrant Officer 3 Joshua Jacobsen, who helped pilot the mission and who moved to Virginia from Minnesota two years ago. “It felt good for me personally to give back to the state that I feel has really embraced and welcomed me as a Virginian.”

Tangier Island has been iced in since late last week when freezing temperatures swept the commonwealth, making regular deliveries of mail and supplies impossible.

“We all forget sometimes how great it is to have our military, and they keep us free, but in these situations it’s not just to protect our outer boundaries, but to help the citizens as well,” said Charles Pruitt, director of public safety for Accomack County. “It’s great to have the National Guard available to do this for us.”

Earlier this week, more than 125 Virginia National Guard personnel staged for possible winter storm response operations at locations across the commonwealth after McAuliffe declared a state of emergency Monday afternoon. The Soldiers, Airmen and members of the Virginia Defense Force were ready to support the Virginia State Police, the Virginia Department of Transportation and other state and local emergency response organizations.

Photos: Virginia Guard aviators deliver supplies to iced-in Tangier Island – Feb. 19, 2015