Task Force One
Westerville firefighter honored to help victims of storm in NJ
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, a group of 80 Ohio first responders deployed to the New York City area to aid with search-and-rescue and relief efforts.
Among the members of Ohio Task Force One was Westerville firefighter Nick Jones, who finished his training to become a member of the task force just a week before being deployed.
The members of Ohio Task Force One headed to Fort Dix, N.J., Oct. 29, where they trained and awaited orders.
They spent the rest of the week in hurricane-struck New Jersey beach communities, going door to door to check on residents and provide them with food, water and blankets.
"We were doing what we call 'knock and walks,' building assessments, making sure that everyone in the homes along the beach were doing all right," Jones said. "No one in that area had any electricity or gas, so we were basically going through and giving out military meals if they needed them and cases of water if they needed them, blankets."
Members of the task force also helped to set up a logistical distribution system for the area, said Dan Kochensparger, a public information officer for both the Upper Arlington Fire Division and Ohio Task Force One.
"Those who were at Fort Dix (Nov.3) off-loaded their box trucks to allow the pickup trucks and vans to convoy to Brooklyn and link up with other task force personnel who flew there by helicopter earlier on Sunday morning," Kochensparger said. "Once on the ground, (Ohio Task Force One) personnel transferred bulkloads of (military ready-to-eat meals), water, blankets, cots, et cetera, from tractor trailers to the box trucks.
"They then drove to designated (point-of-distribution) areas in the Coney Island area. Personnel spent the day going door-to-door and offering these supplies to those in need."
Jones, a former Florida resident who is no stranger to the destruction of hurricanes, said he was surprised by the damage he saw while serving with Task Force One.
"It was amazing, the water lines. You could see the water lines in people's houses, chest high. A lot of people lost the first floor of their houses," Jones said. "I'm used to handling emergencies and doing emergency response, but to see it on such a large scale was incredible."
Jones said he wanted to train with Ohio Task Force One because many of those who trained him as a firefighter were on the task force.
"A lot of the people on Task Force One are the best of the best. A lot of the guys were my instructors. ... They're the whole reason I wanted to be there," Jones said. "There's a lot to take back from this type of training and these types of guys."
After all of the training to participate in the task force, Jones said it was thrilling to see all of the training and studying come together to result in a successful deployment.
"It was everything I thought it would be and a lot more, just seeing the way that everything came together from the top down, getting missions and seeing how things come together," Jones said.
The deployment also was rewarding because of the gratitude of the hurricane victims the task force aided, Jones said. One New York community sent the unit a thank-you card signed by many of its residents.
"It was a good feeling to know that you really helped someone there," Jones said. "We accomplished our mission."