Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and Representative Kathy Hochul urged the Department of Defense (DoD) to closely examine the importance of the National Guard 107th Airlift wing, based at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station (NFARS), to both Western New York, the state, and the entire Northeast. They emphasized in their letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta that the 107th Airlift Wing, which has served as a proven resource in the Western New York region, also serves as a unit of Northeast regional and national importance given their response to Tropical Storms Irene and Lee last year, and their recent service during Hurricane Sandy. Schumer, Gillibrand, and Hochul highlighted that DoD should take into account the contributions that the 75 members of the 107th Airlift Wing made in response to this historic disaster after they deployed from NFARS in any future restructuring decisions.
"I want to commend the 107th Airlift Wing for their heroic response after Hurricane Sandy cost downstate New York untold destruction, and I urge the Department of Defense to recognize the statewide and regional importance of our troops who serve at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station during future force restructuring," said Schumer. "When disaster strikes we cannot afford to miss a beat, and the 107th immediately sprang into action and traveled across the state to save lives and expedite the recovery process in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. This is the third time in 14 months that troops from the Niagara Falls base have been a vital component of the rebuilding process after a natural disaster, and it is their ability to respond to situations like this that makes it so important to keep these troops in Western New York. The 107th has once again demonstrated that they are critical to keeping people safe throughout the state."
"Western New York stood fully prepared for the worst of Hurricane Sandy because of the 107th Airlift Wing, who are today answering the call to fellow New Yorkers in the Hudson Valley, New York City and Long Island in their hour of need," said Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "From the back-to-back storms of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee just one year ago, to Hurricane Sandy today, and every mission in between both here and abroad, the 107th is always ready to protect New Yorkers and come to our rescue, and we couldn't weather these storms or rebuild without them."
"The quick response of the 107th Air National Guard to the needs of New Yorkers devastated by Hurricane Sandy is a clear reminder of the important role the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station plays in the safety and security of New York state," said Rep. Hochul. "Just as the men and women of the Air Wing responded to Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee, and the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010, the 107th has yet again answered the call by providing critical relief in Manhattan. As we begin to rebuild, the support provided by NFARS will go a long way toward advancing our recovery. This is another prime example of why the Air National Guard must remain in full force at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station."
The 107th was on standby in Niagara Falls as Hurricane Sandy approached and was prepared to respond should Western New York have been hit by the storm. The 107th also currently has two of their C-130's on stand-by in support of New York emergency response and two others on stand-by in support of National Guard Bureau directed missions. Additionally, in order to protect costly equipment such as C-130s and HH Rescue Helicopters from the storm, they were moved up to Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station and out of the direct path of the hurricane. Once the storm had passed, 75 men and women from the 107th immediately deployed to the New York City area and began assisting in the rescue and clean-up efforts. These service members played a crucial role in the evacuation efforts of Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan.
Troops based at NFARS continue to serve the Downstate area by providing critical support to law enforcement and first responders. Schumer, Gillibrand, and Hochul cited the 107th's ability to respond to hurricane Sandy as yet another example of the importance of the air base and the units stationed there to New York.
Earlier this year when the Department of Defense was considering force restructuring which could have drastically reduced the 107th and their presence at Niagara Falls, Schumer, Gillibrand, and Hochul worked together with local leaders and advocates to help protect the 107th and the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station.
A copy of their letter appears below:
Dear Secretary Panetta:
We write to you today to highlight the invaluable service of the National Guard 107th Airlift Wing and the honorable work they have done the past several days providing relief to the residents of New York City and Long Island. Once again, just like in the response to Hurricanes Irene and Lee, the 107th has demonstrated their importance to the National Guard's ability to respond during emergencies. As New York continues to work through the most devastating storm our region has ever seen, we urge the Department of Defense to look closely at the important service of these units during this and other disasters as final decisions are made on force restructuring.
As the storm approached New York, the 107th was on standby in Niagara Falls and was prepared to respond should Western New York have been hit by the storm. The Wing continues to maintain several of its C-130s on stand-by ready to support the state emergency response needs and in support of the National Guard Bureau missions. Additionally, in order to protect costly equipment such as C-130s and HH Rescue Helicopters from the storm, they were moved up to Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station and out of the direct path of the hurricane. Once the storm had passed, 75 men and women from the 107th immediately deployed to the New York City area and began assisting in the rescue and clean-up efforts. Perhaps most notably, the men and women of the 107th assisted in the evacuation efforts of Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan.
As the 107th continues relief work in the Downstate area by providing badly-needed support to police and first responders, we feel compelled to inform you that we are immensely proud of the work that is being done. It is times like these that we see our whole state come together to help those in need, and we are heartened that we have once again been able to call upon the 107th to step up to the challenge when they were needed most. We know this is the same spirit you saw in them when you visited Niagara Falls just this past August. As you continue to evaluate new missions, and long term force restructuring, we believe the 107th's ability to respond to hurricane Sandy only further demonstrates their importance to New York State and the entire region. We are thankful for your continuing support of the 107th Airlift wing and urge you to keep situations like this in mind as you make future force structuring decisions.