When Sandy, a category 2 hurricane, touched down in the Northeastern United States in late October, the devastation was enormous. The need for volunteers to help the people of New Jersey and New York restore their homes and cities was met by thousands who dropped everything to help restore power, provide food and do whatever was necessary to help their fellow citizens. Staff Sgt. Jesse Johnson, 56th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, and Chrach, her MWD, also answered the call and were dispatched to Sky Harbor International Airport to help assist the recovery effort. Team Chrach departed Luke Air Force Base Nov. 2 and assisted FEMA for roughly three days searching and indentifying vehicles for explosives.
Johnson and Chrach teamed with the 161st Security Forces Squadron, part of the Arizona Air National Guard’s 161st Refueling Wing stationed at Sky Harbor and the 56th SFS’s sister unit, searched more than 132 vehicles that arrived at the airport en route to the North East.
FEMA, whose primary purpose is to coordinate the response to a disaster in the U.S., requested assistance from security forces at Luke AFB.
“This is the first natural disaster our squadron has taken part in,” said Staff Sgt. Kyle Alltop, 56th SFS MWD trainer.
The team received C-17 and C-5 aircraft carrying vehicles from all over the United States. From tractor trailers to compact cars, the team made sure the vehicles were explosives-free and ensured the safety of cargo departing from and arriving to military installations.
“It was a privilege to work with our sister unit at the Arizona ANG to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy,” Johnson said.
The 56th SFS receives daily requests for the services of working dog teams. They work with the Department of Public Safety learning new skills and honing old ones on a daily basis.
“Our mission changes from day to day,” Alltop said. “From searching roadways for buried bombs to vehicles used for catering, the working dogs are there to deter any explosive operations.”