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Services Prep for Hurricane Wilma

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 22, 2005 – The military continues preparations for the predicted Monday Florida landfall of Hurricane Wilma.

In the latest update, the Navy was to decide later today whether to deploy the USS Nashville, USS Trenton and USS Wasp for possible hurricane relief support, according to a Navy spokesman. The Navy has also evacuated its housing residents from Key West and has moved four MH-60 helicopters to a safer location at Naval Station Mayport, near Jacksonville, Fla.

At Naval Air Station Jacksonville, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has established a base to respond to any aftermath caused by Wilma, the spokesman said.

The Army and Air Force Exchange Service also is preparing to provide emergency support to military families in Wilma's path.

Installations affected could include MacDill, Patrick and Homestead Air Force bases, AAFES contingency plans officer Capt. Kevin Baird said.

Although AAFES contingency resources continue serving military families and relief workers in Louisiana, Baird said he is confident that, if needed, AAFES will be able to provide emergency support to Army and Air Force personnel in Florida.

"The AAFES motto is 'We Go Where You Go.' We're prepared for the worst to ensure we are there if the troops need us," he said.

AAFES emergency support after hurricanes Katrina and Rita in September included resources normally reserved for war zones. Nearly two months after Katrina made landfall, AAFES still operates three tactical field exchanges at the convention center and Loyola University in New Orleans. These exchanges are 40- to 53-foot trailers converted into mobile retail stores. Those that would be deployed to Florida in the event of an emergency are similar to those serving troops in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan.

"After a severe hurricane hits, a normal retail operation might as well be in the middle of nowhere," said Baird. "You're starting over at Square 1. The TFEs can be set up almost anywhere within 24 hours to provide personal care items, basic clothing items, snacks, soft drinks and entertainment."

(Based in part on an Army and Air Force Exchange Service news release.)

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