National Guard Ready for Disaster Response Roles in Wake of Hurricane Matthew
By Terri Moon Cronk DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, Oct. 7, 2016 – More than 6,000 National Guard members are on duty in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina as Hurricane Matthew moves north up the Atlantic Coast, Air Force Maj. Gen. James C. Witham, director of domestic operations for the National Guard Bureau, said here today.
Witham told reporters in a Pentagon briefing that as of this morning, 3,500 Guard members in helicopters and high-wheeled vehicles began search-and-rescue missions in Florida.
"From a national-level standpoint, the Guard is very well postured to be able to support [missions] with well-trained soldiers and airmen in specific skill sets," the general said.
Secretary Alters Trip Because of Storm
Meanwhile, because of the potential impact of Hurricane Matthew on Defense Department facilities and personnel, and the department's potential role in recovery efforts, Defense Secretary Ash Carter has cancelled his trip to Colombia tomorrow in advance of the 12th Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, Pentagon director of press operations, said.
Davis said Carter will meet this afternoon on hurricane operations with the National Guard bureau chief, U.S. Northern Command's commander and the deputy director of operations in the Joint Staff.
Witham outlined the National Guard Bureau's plan of engagement to work from south to north in the four hurricane-affected states.
Guards members in the four-state area have performed more than 100 life-saving missions, from search-and-rescue, humanitarian relief, support to law enforcement and security and support for shelter operations, he said.
"South Carolina and Georgia are still posturing personnel and equipment, as the storm comes and passes through," he said.
Witham said Georgia and South Carolina Guard members are available to support their governors and civil authorities as the storm passes over that coastal area over the next 24 to 48 hours.
North Carolina so far maintains a "relatively small foot print" in troops, he said, adding, "The number solely depends on the storm's track. As it passes through, North Carolina will have the ability to surge its Guardsmen."
N.C Guard Might Work In Support Role
Based on the storm's track, North Carolina Guard members could likely go into supportive roles for the other three affected states, Witham said, adding that agreements also are in place with Guard members in Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Texas.
Dual-status commanders are in Florida and South Carolina if federal forces combine with the Guard for overall support to civil authorities for response and recovery efforts, he said.
"We remain hopeful the storm's track will remain primarily off the coast, because that will minimize impact from wind damage and on infrastructures in the four states," Witham said.
"We think the most likely scenario once [the hurricane] is in the Carolinas, is that it will primarily be a rain event," he said, adding, "South Carolina and North Carolina are already saturated by rain, so we're preparing to support our governors mostly for a flood event [rather] than a wind event."
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