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174th Attack Wing preparing to help with Sandy relief efforts

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: 174th Attack Wing preparing to help with Sandy relief efforts
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Soldiers with the National Guard will be a vital part of the relief efforts downstate. The men and women based at the 174th Attack Wing in Syracuse spent Tuesday preparing for their mission. Katie Gibas has more.

ONONDAGA COUNTY, N.Y. -- Just seeing the photos of New York City underwater were enough for dozens airmen from the Air National Guard's 174th Attack Wing to jump to action.

"Seeing the tunnels flooding and the water coming out of those subways, it's amazing. Seeing the streets of New York City just empty of people, which is a good thing, obviously. It's amazing to see that happen unfortunately," said Lt. Col. Ron Berzins, 174th Attack Wing.

The 174th picked up dozens of humvees at Fort Drum Tuesday morning. After refueling and picking up supplies at the Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, they headed down to Camp Smith near Peekskill, New York. A total of 109 people volunteered for the mission to help Sandy recovery efforts and 90 were chosen.

"We had more volunteers than we needed than were tasked for it. People are anxious. They're all raising their hand. They all want to go. There's a look of disappointment for those that didn't get chosen. So it's always great to be a part of a team that wants to do this and help others," said Lt. Col. Berzins.

At this point, members of the 174th say their mission is pretty fluid. They anticipate being down in the New York City area for the next three to seven days. They say once they get down there, they'll assess the situation and help out wherever needed.

"I don't know if it's cleaning up or driving through neighborhoods, making sure everyone's taken care of, meeting immediate needs of people who might need food or water or supplies. We have the humvees here that can drive through the flooded streets, so we can bring the supplies to them," said Lt. Col. Berzins.

Some of these airmen were deployed to help with Irene recovery efforts last year. They expect a similar mission.

"Much like this, we didn't really have a specific mission set other than to get down there, set up some command and control and get some boots on the ground so we can assist wherever down in the city," said Tech Sgt. Jason Hancock, 174th Attack Wing.

A1C Steve Mueller, 174th Attack Wing, added, "Establish communications if we can. That's our primary job. But really just help everyone out."

Whatever their mission, all those deploying say they're prepared to help.

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