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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Hurricane Sandy - State Active Duty - The Future

It has been way too long since my last blog post, unfortunately this past week has been one of initial wonder, then preparedness, and eventual horror for many families throughout the New York, New Jersey, and Maryland coastline and also many families that felt the wrath further inland from Hurricane Sandy.  Last weekend, the last weekend of October 2012, we all prepared for Sandy to make landfall, no one in the northeast truly knew what to expect, I planned on going about my weekly routine, reporting to my neurosurgery physician assistant job early Monday morning as the storm began to show signs of making it's way through New Jersey.  I did just that, went to work, continued my normal daily duties as I always do and kept an eye on the weather, and some attention to my iPhone in case I received a call from my National Guard unit as Pennsylvania had 16,000 Guardsman on standby for what was feared to be a repeat of last year when we had significant flooding throughout out region in central and northeastern Pennsylvania. 

About 1000hrs I received that call, asking if I could report by 1200hrs for state active duty for what would become Operation Hurricane Sandy.  I reassured I could come in, but at the time I got the call I was inundated with work, as is our norm in neurosurgery, and said I could show up by 1600hrs.  I also had to shave my beard and get my uniform and other items together since I wasn't sure how long I would be asked to stay on orders, it would depend on the effect the storm had in our area of operation.  I left work shortly after 1500hrs and eventually made my way to my National Guard Armory which is conveniently located across the road from the subdivision where I live in Danville, PA.  This was not something that was planned, it just worked out that way, shortly after my family and I moved into our home they broke ground on the new armory.  I transferred to the unit that would eventually occupy that armory a little over a year before the armory opened.  Couldn't have worked out any better. 

Being a physician assistant I figured I could be available for the soldiers in case there was any injury or illness that I could manage locally without sending them to the emergency department.  Since the unit was operating with a strict number of soldiers I asked the powers that be if there was any other specific mission they might require from me.  There was, they asked me to man the tactical operations center (TOC) from 1900 to 0700 as the Battle Captain (officer in charge) and of course I couldn't refuse.  Being a medical officer I had no idea what was expected of me or what I needed to do, but after one shift it started to fall into place.  That first night I worked without sleep for 27 straight hours, from the time I woke up for work that Monday until I went to bed Tuesday morning after my shift ended on state active duty, 27 hours had elapsed.  That was the most difficult part of the state active duty in our area.  Our area of operations included eleven counties from where our armory is located north to the border with New York.  There were no missions during my shift and no requests from the Pennsylvania Emergency Medical Agency (PEMA) for help from our unit.

It was obvious from watching the weather channel all night that evening and early morning that the majority of the damage from this storm would be the Jersey Shore/East coast areas and New York.  West Virginia received significant snowfall, but by the grace of God north central Pennsylvania was spared major damage.  There were trees down in local towns and power outages, but no flooding, or other cause for significant concern.  We dodged a bullet, unfortunately many did not.

My state active duty ended Wednesday evening, only three short days and two long overnight shifts, I was back to neurosurgery by Thursday at 0645.  I can't help but think of all those who are suffering now, in those hard hit areas of Jersey and Staten Island.  I want to do more, sure I gave a very small amount of cash to the Red Cross, but more needs to be done.  I have tossed around an idea to gather a group of soldiers together and head down to Jersey for a weekend in the next few weeks to assist in recovery efforts.  Mainly to help clean up, give our time to help with labor, where it may be needed. So far I have a few of the guys from my platoon on board.  I need to resource some of my coworkers with ties in Jersey to see if there is a neighborhood we can adopt for a weekend and help in any way we can.  We could also take food and clothes down if we manage to get donations prior to heading down.  This idea is in the infancy of planning, but this is something we need to do, we need to help our fellow Americans in this time of need.

If you have read this post and are someone in the Jersey area in the need of some free labor, or you know of a neighborhood that is in need of such help, please go to and go to the contact link and send me a message and contact information.  Or click the link below and post a message on our newly created Facebook page.  We are looking at the weekend prior to or after Thanksgiving to lend a hand if needed.

Also available on is information to for the Red Cross and donations in support of those affected by Sandy.

God Bless the USA!!

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