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National Guard helping New York dig out of blizzard

More than 200 National Guard members have been called on to help parts of New York dig out of the blizzard and frigid temperatures, but roll call was all volunteer.

Twenty members of the 174th Air National Guard Wing based in Syracuse signed up to bundle up and join units from Niagara Falls, Utica and Buffalo to respond to the blizzard that hit western and northern New York this week.

They were loading up trucks Tuesday evening with blankets, shovels, water and other winter gear. The state called on the 174th to be ready to head to western New York, where about three of snow, coupled with high winds and below zero temperatures was expected before the storm was done.

Sgt. Matthew Winnie, a nine year veteran of the unit, wasn’t worried about heading into the sub-zero wind chills.

"I’m just expecting to help a lot of people out of the snow. If their car’s in the ditch or they don’t have any heat, we want to bring them some warm weather gear, stuff that we have here," he said after a briefing at Hancock Airfield.

Winnie says the military-issued fleece jackets and Gor-Tex coats are essential articles of clothes. And being an upstate native, he’s used to shoveling snow.

Lt. Col. Edward Cook says it took only a half hour to get 20 members to volunteer to help, and then they had to turn some people away.

"We’ve never had an issue trying to get volunteers to support an operation, whether it was operation Sandy or the floods in the Herkimer area," he said. "We’ve got more than a thousand very dedicated professionals out here who love to support this community that takes care of us throughout the year."

The 266 guard members called on are made up of 174th Attack Wing, The 2nd Battalion 108th Infantry in Utica, and the 427th Brigade Support Battalion, the 107th Airlift Wing in Niagara Falls, the Army National Guard's 204th Engineer Battalion, the 2nd Battalion 101st Cavalry and the 105th Military Police Battalion in Buffalo.

How long they'll be deployed wasn't yet known.