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Gates OKs Call-up of 50,000 Guard Troops for Hurricane Support

By Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke
Special to American Forces Press Service

ARLINGTON, Va., Sept. 2, 2008 – Up to 50,000 National Guard personnel can be called up for the response to Hurricane Gustav if needed, a National Guard Bureau official said yesterday.

“They will operate under the control of the governors through the adjutants general,” Air Force Maj. Gen. William Etter, director of domestic operations for the National Guard Bureau, said at a media briefing held by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates authorized the call-up Aug. 31 for a period ending Sept. 15.

Etter said the National Guard has more than 14,000 citizen-soldiers and -airmen deployed to the Gulf Coast, and “we are poised to flex this number as required."

“Their response so far has been superb, and no effort has been spared to ensure the safety, security and well being of the citizens of the Gulf Coast,” he said.

Etter praised the Guard’s interagency partners for their teamwork. “We all recognized … early on the potential seriousness of this storm and started coordination to support the affected states,” he said. “And right now, we believe we have had a rapid, effective response to the storm.”

Over the weekend, the National Guard evacuated more than 17,000 citizens from New Orleans and almost 600 special-needs patients regionally.

Current operations include 24-hour security patrols in New Orleans. Also, 350 buses with National Guard drivers are pre-positioned to conduct a post-landfall evacuation if needed.

The National Guard has more than 3,800 highwater vehicles and 86 helicopters in the region, ready to deploy as needed, Etter said.

In addition to its response to Hurricane Gustav, the National Guard is preparing for the potential landfall of Tropical Storm Hanna.

(Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke serves at the National Guard Bureau.)

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