Military preparing to respond to areas affected by Hurricane Irma

3752485 Military preparing to respond to areas affected by Hurricane Irma

Coast Guard personnel pre-stage aircraft and make final checks at Aviation Training Center Mobile, Ala., Sept. 10, 2017, in preparation for Hurricane Irma response operations. (Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Patrick Kelley)

Updated Sept. 11 at 4:39 pm EST

By Caitlin M. Kenney

As Tropical Storm Irma continues to affect Florida, Georgia, and other southern states, military bases are preparing to respond to impacted areas, while others wait to access their own damage. U.S. Northern Command is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to assist states affected by the hurricane.

“For any natural disaster, our command’s role is support of the local authorities,” said Lt. Cmdr. Joe Nawrocki, public affairs officer at NORAD and U.S. NORTHCOM.

Although there is no request for federal assistance at the moment from Florida, “We are pre-positioning as much as we can, so if and when that request is made, we can act on it immediately,” Nawrocki said. He added that there is some search and rescue efforts being conducted right now in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Equipment and supplies is currently being moved as close to the affected areas as possible, Nawrocki said, including helicopters from Fort Campbell, Ky. for search, rescue and resupply, and fuel trucks at Robins Air Force Base in Ga.

“We’re here to help and assist any local government that requests or needs the assistance in any natural disaster,” Nawrocki said.

For Naval bases in Florida, they are still focused on storm conditions and damage. “Right now we still have folks that are sheltering in place here in the Jacksonville (Florida) area and up north of us as Irma continues its trek north,” said Bill Dougherty, public affairs officer for Navy Region Southeast, about the region’s current situation Monday morning.

At Naval Air Station Key West there were no injuries, “and they are assessing the damage at the installation and making plans to try to begin the recovery process to get the base back to mission operations,” he added.

Almost 400 soldiers and more than 110 military vehicles from the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina are deploying to help with relief operations, the Fayetteville Observer reported Sunday.

The Department of Defense also released an update Monday afternoon about their current efforts in response to Hurricane Irma, including:

  • Completing the evacuation of U.S. citizens from St. Martin and coordinating the evacuation of U.S. citizens from the British Virgin Islands
  • In Florida, “Approximately 10,400 service-members are supporting relief operations in the region.”
  • Several Navy ships are arriving to Florida’s east cost to assist with air support operations

The U.S. Coast Guard has moved aircraft, boats, and personnel out of the path of the storm and is preparing to respond when the storm passes.

Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama is also being used as a staging ground for hundreds of FEMA trucks filled with items including food, water, and generators.

The National Guard posted on their Facebook page Sept. 9 that it has over 25,500 members on active duty supporting the response to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, as well as wildfires.

Connect: @CaitlinMKenney | Caitlin@ConnectingVets.com

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