National Guardsmen all along the East Coast are on duty, ready to do what needs to be done in response to Hurricane Dorian, the chief of the National Guard Bureau said.
Air Force Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel told Pentagon reporters today that guardsmen from Florida to Virginia are assisting civilian agencies across a range of capabilities.
Dorian is hitting South Carolina and North Carolina, and projected tracks show it affecting southern and eastern Virginia. Coastal flooding is expected from the Category 2 storm packing 110 mph winds. The storm has spawned tornadoes. "It is still a very dangerous and unpredictable storm," the general said.
Overall, more than 8,000 Army and Air National Guardsmen — about 5,000 in Florida, 1,400 in Georgia, 1,400 in South Carolina and about 1,000 in North Carolina — are engaged in response activities in response to Hurricane Dorian, Lengyel said. All of the guardsmen called up have been called by the governors of the states affected.
The guardsmen provide aviation assets, medical aid, communications, security help, transportation assets, logistic support and more, the general said. Planning for these natural disasters occurs well in advance, Lengyel noted, and the states work agreements among themselves to share resources. They also exercise the disaster response capabilities with local, state, federal and military personnel working together to ensure smooth running, he said.
Lengyel works closely with Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O'Shaughnessy, the commander of U.S. Northern Command, to provide all the resources that governors need. Lengyel stressed that the governors "own" the hurricane response effort in their states.
Roughly 5,000 Florida Guardsmen are beginning to stand down after the hurricane appears to have spared the state. In the Carolionas, the roughly 3,000 Guardsmen mostly facilitated evacuations, but that mix could change as the storm continues. "As the storm has moved up the coast, the states have adjusted their activated National Guards to respond as necessary," Lengyel said.
A "dual-status commander" is appointed for each state. This person — usually a National Guard officer — ensures there is no duplication of effort or clashing of missions between service members in state and federal status.
Meanwhile, the National Guard is looking ahead for the possibility of upcoming operations.
"We are already tracking that disturbance off the coast of Africa," Lengyel said. "Part of my brief this morning was telling folks to open up their apertures to see what is out there. We are watching it. Absolutely!"
These state missions are not the only ones the 450,000 members of the National Guard perform. At any one time, the National Guard has between 25,000 and 30,000 service members engaged in a federal missions around the world. In addition to hurricane relief, guardsmen have helped during floods and forest fires, during times of civil unrest, and even in response to volcanoes.
In addition, state National Guards reach out through the State Partnership Program to support the militaries of other nations. For example, Rhode Island is the partner with the Bahamas, and Rhode Island Guardsmen are working with Bahamian military personnel to provide relief for that nation, devastated by Hurricane Dorian earlier this week.