Face of Defense: Guard Members Aid Flood-stricken Floridians
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Blair Heusdens
Florida National Guard
LIVE OAK, Fla., June 29, 2012 The Florida National Guard is supporting relief efforts in several counties affected by widespread flooding after Tropical Storm Debby dumped large amounts of rain during its slow journey across the state.
Air Force Maj. Gen. Emmett R. Titshaw Jr., Florida's adjutant general, watches as workers assess the stability of a sinkhole outside the Suwannee County Courthouse in Florida, June 28, 2012. The Florida National Guard is providing assistance to residents in several state counties affected by flooding caused by Tropical Storm Debby. Florida National Guard photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Blair Heusdens
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Adjutant General Air Force Maj. Gen. Emmett R. Titshaw Jr. and several other senior state officials journeyed to Wakulla, Suwannee and Pasco counties to survey the flood damage and to talk to residents.
“We just left the shelter here that has the citizens of Live Oak who lost their homes, who essentially lost everything,” Titshaw said. “Talking to some of the people, it was very gratifying to hear when they told me they were rescued by the Florida National Guard. It’s the reason we do what we do.”
The Florida National Guard participated in several rescues of residents from the flood waters in Columbia and Suwannee counties.
“The National Guard pulled up in a truck and I was like, ‘Thank God,’” said Michaela Solomon, a resident of Live Oak who, along with her children, was rescued from her home by soldiers from the Florida National Guard. “It was such a relief to know we were going to somewhere safe. It was just a blessing that the National Guard came to where we were.”
As of June 29, more than 70 Florida National Guard members have been called to duty in support of relief efforts, officials said. Due to rising flood waters, Guard members are providing high-water tactical vehicles to assist with rescues, evacuations and damage assessments in Suwannee and Columbia counties, officials said.
In addition to the high-water vehicles, officials said, the Florida National Guard is also assisting with communications in Suwannee County, providing an emergency response vehicle to provide internet and phone capabilities to the county’s Emergency Operations Center.
For soldiers from the 868th Engineer Company, Guard officials said, the flooding hit close to home, affecting many local soldiers in the tight-knit Live Oak-based unit. Officials said approximately half of the unit resides in the area and several of the full-time unit support staff members were affected by the storm.
The Florida National Guard is continuing to provide support as requested by the State Emergency Response Team, officials said, noting that Florida’s citizen-soldiers and airmen are trained and equipped for a wide range of life support, security and public safety missions, and can mobilize approximately 9,000 personnel if needed to protect lives and property during disasters.