Blackhawk helicopters depart NJ for Texas flood zone

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Blackhawk helicopters depart NJ for Texas flood zone. Nora Muchanic reports during Action News at 5pm on August 31, 2017. (WPVI)

Two Blackhawk helicopters and a crew of 12 left Joint Base Maguire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey on Wednesday morning, headed to Texas to assist in the emergency flood response.

"Essentially we have a pretty valuable asset to be able to pull people off elevated and hardened structures, so a lot of hoist operations," said SSgt. Robert Hawlik of Egg Harbor Twp.

"We have a lot of different capabilities, even just down to moving food and water, supplies, things like that. It doesn't necessarily have to be picking people off of the rooftops," said Sgt. Ralph Foy of Mt. Holly.

The pilots and crew going to Texas are all members of New Jersey's Army and Air National Guard. Mechanics spent the last 24 hours preparing the choppers for the trip and these highly-trained air crews are ready to assist flood victims.

"When Sandy hit a bunch of states, they came to us and they provided assistance, and we just want to show the same favor," said Capt. Andre Stevenson of Trenton.

Complete coverage of Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath

Sgt. Anthony Marotta of Collingswood packed some Eagles paraphernalia along with his gear, and says he's eager to pitch in.

"It's not good seeing people sleeping on top of their houses and in tents, but luckily there's a lot of air crews out there hoisting people out and I just hope we can do our part," Marotta said.

The Blackhawk helicopters will be arriving in Texas on Friday. Other resources may be heading that way if they are requested by officials there.

"We will be there to help them anyway we can, both with advice and, more importantly, with resources," said Gov. Chris Christie.

New Jersey has sent 3,000 blankets to Texas shelters, and electric companies are on standby to send repair crews. The guardsmen will join members of New Jersey Task Force One, already on scene.

"As soon as we get there we'll have to train, learn how they are operating down there, so we'll be on the ground learning that for a few days. Once we are operational within minutes, 15 minutes, we can take off and pick somebody up," said Sgt. Timothy Witts of Lakehurst.

For information on how you can help the victims of Harvey, visit this link here on

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