Guard Supports Joint Response, Thousands Deploy
By Army Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill
National Guard Bureau
ARLINGTON, Va., Aug. 27, 2011 National Guard support to the joint response to Hurricane Irene was in full motion today as thousands of soldiers and airmen rolled out in multiple states to support civilian authorities.
Army Sgt. Matt Ryan and Army Staff Sgt. Will Phillips, both medics from the 224th Area Support Medical Company, Maryland National Guard, assist local firefighters as they exit a house fire in Salisbury, Md., Aug. 27, 2011. Local first responders were called to a house fire after a tree downed by Hurricane Irene caused power lines to arc electricity through a surge protector inside the home. Residents were home and were able to exit the house to safety. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Darron Salzer
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Guard officials at the National Guard Coordination Center here were tracking the storm and working with other federal agencies, states, territories and the District of Columbia around the clock as about 4,450 Guard members in 13 states supported the response -- with more citizen-soldiers and –airmen on the way.
The National Guard Bureau is coordinating closely with state and federal agencies -- including the Federal Emergency Management Agency and U.S. Northern Command -- to provide timely, potentially lifesaving hurricane relief, Guard officials said.
More than 400,000 Guard members are available in more than 3,300 communities nationwide, including about 101,000 in the affected states.
States as far and safe from the storm as Alaska, Illinois, Louisiana and New Mexico contributed National Guard assets to the response. Alaska sent its storied “Guardian Angels” with helicopters for potential search and rescue missions; helicopters and troops were en route from Illinois for potential support to New York, where the governor mobilized about 2,000 of his own troops; and Louisiana contributed helicopters and troops to a response package staging to assist where needed.
The National Guard has the size, skills, training, experience, command and communications infrastructure and legal flexibility to support civil authorities at a moment’s notice, Guard officials said.
Directly affected states -- either because they already were being impacted by the storm or were in its forecast path -- include Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont and Virginia. The District of Columbia also was affected.
To avoid damage, the Air National Guard repositioned aircraft in numerous states as a precautionary measure days in advance of the storm.
Meanwhile, the Virginia National Guard reported that the National Guard Bureau is spearheading an effort to stage forces in Virginia that would enable them to rapidly respond in the event they are needed for recovery operations in the wake of Hurricane Irene.
The personnel and equipment will be prepositioned in Virginia, and then could be deployed in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey or Washington, D.C., through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact system if needed. As the severe weather continues past Virginia, the forces then could be available for duty in states to the north.
An advance party from the South Carolina National Guard began movement today to the Virginia National Guard’s Aviation Support Facility in Sandston where they will assist in positioning aviation equipment. A task force with a variety of different aviation capabilities is ready to support when called to begin air movement tomorrow after the storm passes and will stage in Sandston.
The Tennessee National Guard has troops alerted and could begin movement tomorrow. If they come to Virginia, they would assemble at the Virginia National Guard’s Maneuver Training Center at Fort Pickett and be available for duty throughout the region.
“We currently have enough Virginia National Guard personnel and equipment staged to meet the anticipated needs of recovery operations from Hurricane Irene,” said Army Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long Jr., adjutant general. “In the event that additional resources are needed in Virginia or elsewhere along the East Coast, positioning these forces in Virginia enables the National Guard to respond more rapidly to provide assistance.”
(Cotton Puryear of the Virginia National Guard contributed to this article.)