CHARLESTON, W. Va. - The West Virginia National Guard was ramping up efforts today to prepare for the impact of Hurricane Florence on the Mountain State, while simultaneously lending support to neighboring National Guard units and federal agencies.
The WVNG has dispatched numerous joint-enabling teams (JET) from the Army Interagency Education and Training Center (AITEC) to locations in the path of Hurricane Florence. As of Wednesday, 13 Soldiers have deployed to the National Guard Coordination Center, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia.
JET members have advanced training in homeland defense and response and will serve as additional assets and liaisons for National Guard units' requirements at the national level in coordination with the NGCC. In addition, the WVNG's swift water rescue team, a joint endeavor with Clendenin and Glasgow Volunteer Fire Departments, is on standby for staging and deployment depending on the tracking of the storm.
At the 167th Airlift Wing in Martinsburg, 20 Air Guard personnel have been working hand-in-hand with representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency Region 3 to prepare a staging area for disaster relief supplies. Since yesterday, nearly 70 tractor-trailer loads of water, food, tents, cots, blankets and fuel arrived at the airbase where the supplies will await distribution as needed pending Hurricane Florence's impact.
'We're staging commodities here in anticipation of a potential flood hazard in West Virginia,' said Randy Branson, a logistics planner for the Response Division of FEMA Region 3, and team leader for the staging operations at the 167th AW. 'We're operating under what we call a surge. The post-Katrina Emergency Management Relief Act of 2006 gave FEMA the ability to move assets in advance of a presidential declaration of an emergency to be prepared for a disaster declaration.'
Gov. Jim Justice authorized the WVNG to bring up to 50 Guard members into a duty status Tuesday for preparation and staging at locations across the state. Communications checks within the WVNG and with county emergency operations centers remain a top priority through the planning and preparation stage. County liaison kits are being prepared for deployment so that WVNG liaison officers can relay county needs to the state EOC (emergency operations center) as quickly as possible for response.
'Our Guard folks and our state and local emergency management and response agencies are working as one cohesive team in this process and I commend them on this effort,' said Justice. 'There are still a lot of unknowns at this point and we want every one of our citizens to be safe throughout this ordeal. I urge you all to continue to prepare for this storm, monitor local reports and heed any warnings from our agencies working around the clock.'
Other states not in harm's way from the storm have been sending assets to the areas in the path of the hurricane. They include:
--Members of the Oregon Air National Guard's 125th Special Tactics Squadron mobilized Wednesday to Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, to provide humanitarian support for Hurricane Florence relief. About 12 Oregon Air National Guardsmen departed from the Portland Air National Guard Base on a California Air National Guard C-130 Hercules aircraft headed to Dover. The Airmen are prepared to conduct rescue operations as well as establish air fields that may become inoperable due to the hurricane. Along with the Airmen, the Special Tactics Squadron brought inflatable Zodiac boats, all-terrain vehicles, and mini-bikes to aid in their operations.
--Thirty-six Alaska Air Guard members of the 176th Wing and approximately three short tons of Alaska Air Guard equipment departed Wednesday to assist emergency response efforts for Hurricane Florence. The team from the wing will join members of the New York and California Air National Guard units.The Alaskans flew a C-17 Globemaster III from the 144th Airlift Squadron, with Guardian Angel personnel, a rescue vehicle, raft and alert equipment, to Moffett AFB, California. There, California Air Guardsmen will board before meeting the rest of the team at Dover AFB, Delaware.