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Texas Guard Prepares for Hurricane Ike

American Forces Press Service

CAMP MABRY, Texas, Sept. 9, 2008 – Texas Gov. Rick Perry has authorized the call-up of up to 7,500 Texas soldiers and airmen in response to the threat Hurricane Ike -- over Cuba today and heading west – poses to the Gulf Coast.

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Air Force Staff Sgt. Taunia Sendejar sorts wipes and water for distribution. The supplies will be loaded onto buses for Hurricane Ike evacuees. Sendejar is a member of the 149th Logistics Readiness Squadron, 149th Fighter Wing, Texas Air National Guard. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Andre Bullard
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

State preparations started Sept. 7, when key personnel from local, state and federal agencies gathered for a readiness briefing with Jack Colley, deputy director of the state's Division of Emergency Management.

"If anything, this 2008 hurricane season has demonstrated that we have to be prepared at all times," said Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Gonda Moncada of the Texas Military Forces Public Affairs Office. "Hurricanes do not occur at convenient times or in sufficiently timed intervals."

Preparations by the Texas National Guard consist of pre-and post-landfall assistance and include ground and air evacuation hubs, bus fueling points, management of staging areas for evacuation buses, points of distribution operations for food and water and shelter management. All available air assets are being reconfigured for search-and-rescue missions and medical air evacuations.

Two Texas Air National Guard units have been alerted to provide evacuation operations and communications capabilities in relief efforts prior to the arrival of Hurricane Ike.

The 136th Airlift Wing from Naval Air Station and Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas, will provide up to 250 personnel to assist in Texas and Louisiana, while the 149th Fighter Wing of Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, will provide up to 100 personnel to help out in Texas.

Texas Army National Guard aviation assets also have been alerted for search and rescue missions.

The center of Ike is expected to emerge into the southeastern Gulf of Mexico this afternoon, according to the National Hurricane Center. Ike is currently a Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale, packing maximum sustained winds near 80 mph, with higher gusts.

The hurricane center stated that some weakening is likely as Ike crosses western Cuba, but strengthening is expected once Ike moves into the Gulf of Mexico. Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 35 miles from the storm’s center, and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 195 miles.

Responding to a natural disaster is not a typical military operation, and it "requires patience and adaptation to current circumstances," Moncada said.

"Sometimes our best-laid plans change, … but whatever the case may be, our main focus will never shift, which is the safety and well=being of our fellow citizens,” she said. "If our mere presence in a community has a calming effect, then that is our mission."

(From a Texas Military Forces news release.)

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageAir Force Staff Sgt. Cody Flatts of the 149th Logistics Readiness Squadron, 149th Fighter Wing, Texas Air National Guard, directs buses to be fueled. The buses were dispatched from the Dallas county school district to San Antonio for Hurricane Ike evacuee efforts. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Andre Bullard  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageAir Force Tech. Sgt. Norma Cruz of the 149th Maintenance Squadron, 149th Fighter Wing, Texas Air National Guard, tests global positioning systems. The GPS units will be installed onto buses that will transport Hurricane Ike evacuees if necessary. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Andre Bullard  
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