Air National Guard out of Moffett Field to help with Sandy relief


Members of the 129th Rescue Wing are on a first name basis with a number of devastating hurricanes. Capt. Hank Lutz out of Milpitas says Sandy will be his fifth such encounter.

Lutz will help conduct air rescue operations. He'll be on board one of two Pavehawk helicopters. The versatile helicopters are being transported in the belly of a huge C-17 cargo plane. Once on the East Coast, the days will be long and the missions can be dangerous, just as they were in the aftermath of Hurricane Floyd in 1999.

"We did 12 plus hour days where we would actually be night vision goggles and picking up people flashing flashlights so we could pick them up," Lutz said.

Even as the planes are taking off no one knows how long they will be deployed. It will depend on the severity of the storm and where the rescue units are needed.

Initially, the five cargo planes and personal are headed to Charlotte, North Carolina, but they could be reassigned from there.

The mobilization at Moffatt literally came together overnight.

"We had to do that in 24 hours, get all these people here get them onto airplanes and get them to East Coast to provide rescue capability," Capt. Donnie LeBlanc said.

Some people who serve in the 129th remember the role they played after Hurricane Katrina, rescuing more than 300 people.

"It's not really that draining; if anything it's energizing," Sgt. Darren Gray. "To be able to go out there and see catastrophe, see the look in people's faces when you rescue them reward enough just being out there."

The Air National Guard is ready to respond wherever it is needed.

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