National Guard Troops in Four States Prepare for Hanna
By Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke
Special to American Forces Press Service
ARLINGTON, Va., Sep. 4, 2008 Four states along the East Coast are employing their National Guards as Tropical Storm Hanna nears.
Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina have almost 40,000 Army and Air National Guard members available to their governors, if needed. This includes almost 11,000 in North Carolina, 9,000 in Florida, 11,000 in South Carolina and 9,000 in Georgia.
"The National Guard is pre-positioning several multifunction force packages of trained people and equipment that will be used for transportation, distribution of supplies, ground evacuation, swift water rescue and security of impacted areas," said Army Maj. Randall Short, a public affairs officer with the National Guard Bureau.
Florida and Georgia expect to avoid a hit from Hanna, but two Air National Guard units in those states have evacuated their aircraft nonetheless. The 125th Fighter Wing in Jacksonville, Fla., has evacuated 13 F-15 aircraft to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. The 165th Airlift Wing in Savannah, Ga., has evacuated four C-130 aircraft to McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base in Knoxville, Tenn.
In South Carolina, Gov. Mark Sanford announced in a briefing today that about 250 soldiers from the South Carolina National Guard will remain on standby. He also asked for the voluntary evacuation of Georgetown and Horry counties in the northeast section of the state. Three emergency shelters in those areas would be opened for anyone needing assistance.
At McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., the Army National Guard plans to shelter all of its aviation assets on base, while the 169th Fighter Wing will keep 12 of its F-16s in hangars. The unit's 12 remaining F-16s and one C-130 will be evacuated to Texas tomorrow, said Air Force Maj. Jim St. Clair, a public affairs officer with the South Carolina National Guard.
In North Carolina, Gov. Mike Easley ordered 270 Guard members to state active duty yesterday in preparation for the storm. Guard members will start arriving for duty today and will be in place tomorrow, said Army Maj. Matt Handley, the state public affairs officer for the North Carolina National Guard.
The North Carolina National Guard will field several multifunction force packages of about 50 personnel each, capable of providing security, ground evacuation, transportation, and equipped with swift-water rescue personnel, according to a news release from the state.
Other Guard members will provide logistics support, and six UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters are on standby to conduct missions if needed, the release stated.
North Carolina Guard planners also met with state emergency management personnel over the last several days to finalize plans as the storm approached. All state active duty missions are coordinated through the state emergency management agency.
The North Carolina Guard has mobilized for numerous hurricanes and brings a great deal of knowledge and expertise to these types of operations, Handley said. The last deployment for a hurricane was in 2006, when North Carolina mobilized about 220 personnel for Tropical Storm Ernesto.
Virginia Gov. Timothy Kaine declared a state of emergency in his state today in anticipation of Hanna. He authorized state agencies to identify and preposition resources for quick response anywhere they are needed in Virginia, according to a news release from the governor's office.
The Virginia Emergency Operations Center has increased its operations in response to this declaration, and the Virginia National Guard has personnel alerted and on standby for potential response and recovery missions associated with the storm, the release stated.
"Current forecasts predict Hanna will bring tropical-storm-force winds to Virginia, causing coastal flooding and the very real possibility of tornadoes and power outages," Kaine said in a news release. "Virginians should listen to their local government representatives and local news media for instructions for the duration of the storm."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported today that the center of Hanna was located about 205 miles east of Nassau and about 670 miles south-southeast of Wilmington, N.C. The storm is moving toward the northwest at about 14 mph, a pace expected to continue for the next couple of days with a gradual increase in speed, according to NOAA.
On this track, the center of Hanna will be near the southeast coast of the United States by late tomorrow.
(Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke serves at the National Guard Bureau.)