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Military Moves Aircraft, Prepares Response for Hurricane Wilma

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 21, 2005 – Local, state and federal officials are taking all steps necessary to protect life and property in advance of Hurricane Wilma.

The hurricane is a Category 4 storm that has been battering Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula today. Forecasters say it will linger over Mexico for a day and then turn toward Florida.

Officials said Wilma may hit southwestern Florida sometime Oct. 24. The National Guard established a joint task force in the Florida capital of Tallahassee to conduct preparations and coordinate potential recovery operations throughout the state.

Air Force officials have relocated aircraft that are in the possible track of the storm. Ten F-16s flew out of Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., for Dobbins Air Force Base, Ga., and Fort Worth, Texas. F-15s of the 125th Fighter Wing left Key West Naval Air Station for Jacksonville, Fla. Three C-130s and a WC-130 left Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., to shelter at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala.

The Florida National Guard also is placing resources where they will be needed if Wilma hits. The supplies include 60,000 packaged military meals, more than 100,000 liters of water, and liaison officers in six southern counties in the greatest threat area.

Florida Air Guardsmen used C-130s to evacuate non-mobile patients from Key West medical facilities. The state has nearly 1,000 troops on state active duty, with another 5,000 on stand-by alert.

National Guard Bureau officials said that while the Florida Guard has more than 7,500 troops available to support required operations even while more than 2,000 troops continue to serve around the world in the war on terrorism, the state is prepared to call on neighboring states if their help is needed.

The Florida Guard continues to review and adjust plans for potential operations, officials said. Main forces will be kept out of the hurricane's immediate path to ensure personnel and equipment are available for effective response.

The Navy is readying ships to move to Florida if needed. The USS Wasp, USS Trenton and USS Nashville -- all based at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., are preparing to load humanitarian-relief supplies. They are due to steam off Oct. 22, but that may slip as more information about the storm becomes available, officials said.

(Information provided by Defense Department officials.)

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