Riding along with NY Air National Guard in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria

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ByJoe Torres via WABC logo
Monday, September 25, 2017
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Joe Torres has a look inside the cargo plane.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (WABC) -- A C-17 cargo plane and five men on a mission. Eyewitness News caught up with the New York Air National Guard 105th Air Wing shortly after they landed in San Juan. They left their home base in Newburgh carrying a 'mobile communications command center' - a 41,000-pound piece of equipment that will re-establish communications at the Air National Guard Base in Puerto Rico.

"No communication - everything stops. They don't know about who's coming in more than 200 miles out until Miami center notifies them. Sometimes it hits, sometimes it misses," said instructor pilot, James Cartica Jr.

Bringing in supplies and support to the millions of people devastated by Hurricane Maria is especially meaningful to the two pilots, two load masters and one crew chief on-board the military aircraft. Three of them live in the Hudson Valley, one is from Syracuse, and Angelo Liberatore is from Westchester.

Joe Torres takes a look inside the cargo plane:

"It definitely pulls on the heartstrings a lot. I have a lot of co-workers back home, people I know that have family down there, people reaching out to me like 'hey, can you let me know if my family is alright?'" Liberatore said.

"We of course realize there is a lot more work to be done and we wish we could do more, as much as we are trying to help - and they do need a lot of help," added Flying Crew Chief Byron Catu.

The 105th air wing uses the C-17 and two others for air evacuations to transport communications equipment, medical supplies, emergency personnel and sometimes civilians.

From one mission to another - the crew left Puerto Rico bound for Missouri, where they will pick up helicopters and deliver them to the US Virgin Islands. Five New Yorkers and a C-17 - proudly rushing to the aid of those in need.