NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — Five more crews from the Rhode Island Air National Guard are now helping Hurricane Irma relief efforts in both Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The crews took off on Tuesday and Wednesday, with the most recent departing Quonset Air National Guard Base around 3 p.m Wednesday.
Since Hurricane Irma struck, three planes have left Quonset Air National Guard Base for St. Croix to help with recovery efforts.
“It’s always a pleasure and our desire to help as much as we possibly can when people are in a tough position and we can bring some aid to relieve that,” said Col. Mike Comstock, Vice Commander of the 143rd Airlift Wing.
Before touching down in the hurricane-ravaged U.S. Virgin Islands, the plane that left at 3 p.m. will make a stop in Tennessee. There, it’s going to pick up many of the supplies and people who will help with the recovery work.
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“We’re participating in what’s called an Air Bridge Operation,” Comstock explained. “Taking equipment, food, water, personnel and transporting them from the mainland to the hardest hit areas in the Caribbean and the Florida Keys.”
Eyewitness News was at the air base last week when 15 members boarded a plane also heading to St. Croix. That crew was taking computer gear and more needed to set up what they called a “bare bones air base” on the island to facilitate recovery efforts.
“You’re taking the skills that you learn to defend our nation, go fight wars for the country, to help people out, so there’s nothing more rewarding than that,” said Col. Rick Hart, Director of Air Operations.
Between preparation before Hurricane Irma struck and the ongoing recovery efforts after, the Rhode Island Air National guard has now taken part in a total of eight missions in impacted areas.