ALWAYS READY, ALWAYS THERE: NATIONAL GUARD SENDS OVER 7,400 SOLDIERS FROM 11 STATES IN RESPONSE TO HURRICANE SANDY
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Jim Greenhill
WASHINGTON, Oct. 30, 2012 – More than 7,400 members of the National Guard had been mobilized in 11 states to respond to Hurricane Sandy by 4:30 a.m. today and more are on the way. National Guard assistance to local first responders and the Federal Emergency Management Agency included support at evacuation shelters, route clearance, search and rescue and delivery of essential equipment and supplies.
The focus of National Guard’s missions is shifting to recovery in the aftermath of the storm.
The governors of 12 states and the mayor of the District of Columbia had declared a state of emergency because of the storm, now downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone even as it made its way further inland and continued to wreak havoc in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia.
Guard members were assembling and staging in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Virginia, according to the National Guard Coordination Center, which monitors the response spearheaded by the states.
In Connecticut, Guard members were responding to evacuation security support and high-wheeled search and rescue missions. High-wheeled vehicles were supporting civilian authorities in Maryland. In Massachusetts, a National Guard Civil Support Team was on stand-by for a possible hazardous materials response. In New Jersey, Guard members were assisting state police. In New York and Pennsylvania, they were assisting state emergency managers. In Virginia, citizen-soldiers and –airmen were assisting with debris removal.
Each affected state was monitoring, assessing and responding as needed, and National Guard Bureau officials were monitoring and coordinating from the federal level.
Army Gen. Frank J. Grass, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, briefed President Barack Obama on the National Guard response in support of state, local and federal agencies as part of a FEMA briefing on Oct. 28.
On Oct. 29, Grass was in dawn-to-dusk meetings with senior National Guard leaders, FEMA officials, the adjutants general and the secretary of defense, among others, to monitor and respond to the storm that has affected millions of Americans. That all-out effort was continuing today.
“We had to be ready to respond big and fast -- so the National Guard ramped up in multiple states this weekend preparing to support local, state and federal civilian authorities,” Grass said. “We are part of a whole-of-government response to support state, local and federal agencies tackling the effects of this storm.”
National Guard officials were ready for the possibility of state requests for mutual aid. Emergency Management Assistance Compacts -- ratified by Congress and law in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands -- allow states to provide mutual aid if needed.
“Additional Army Guard forces, from outside the immediate hurricane affected states, are prepared to meet gaps in essential functions, if requested," said Army Lt. Gen. William E. Ingram Jr., director of the Army National Guard.
“Through mutual assistance agreements, Army National Guard ground and aviation task forces, from neighboring FEMA region states, are ready to meet gaps in mission command, medical, communications, logistics, transportation, engineering, civil support, maintenance, security and aviation,” Ingram said.
In just one example of states helping states, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said the Wisconsin National Guard stands ready to assist civilian authorities supporting Hurricane Sandy relief efforts in the impacted regions.
“Wisconsin's outstanding National Guard is ready to help those affected by Hurricane Sandy,” Walker said. “As our nation braces for this massive storm, Wisconsin is hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst. If resources are needed, Wisconsin stands ready to deploy the National Guard for assistance.”
Some help was coming from the opposite side of the country: A Nevada National Guard 152nd Airlift Wing C-130 Hercules military transport aircraft and crew departed Oct. 29 for Moffett Field, Calif. to pick up a rescue boat, truck and several Guardian Angel Pararescue Airmen from the 129th Rescue Wing of the California Air National Guard.
The aircraft and load were scheduled to depart the airfield near Sunnyvale, Calif., later Oct. 29 for Charlotte, N.C., to assist with relief efforts. The 152nd, called to duty by the Air National Guard Readiness Center Crisis Action Team, was expected to arrive in North Carolina late Oct. 29.
States were indicating early today that all needs were currently met. The National Guard Bureau is monitoring the situation closely and coordinating with state, federal and local partners to ensure a coordinated and efficient response, Guard officials said. The National Guard -- the nation’s first military responder -- supports the FEMA response and that of U.S. Northern Command, among other agencies.
More than 85,000 National Guard members are available to assist civilian authorities in potentially affected states in support of relief efforts. Available National Guard resources include almost 140 rotary-winged aircraft to perform search and rescue, reconnaissance and personnel or cargo-carrying missions.
Critical equipment available from the National Guard also includes 75 zodiac boats, 3,125 high-water vehicles, 43 Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Units, 3,535 generators and 726 debris-clearance vehicles.
Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta agreed with the governors of Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Rhode Island to appoint dual status commanders as Hurricane Sandy approached, according to Defense Department reports.
Dual status commanders can command both federal and state National Guard forces. This special authority enables them to effectively integrate defense support operations and capabilities requested by governors. Panetta is prepared to agree to similar requests from other states, the Defense Department reported.
Governors warned of heavy rain, extensive power outages, significant flooding and dangerous conditions, according to National Guard Coordination Center reports.
A state of emergency typically mobilizes resources to local governments that otherwise are restricted to state use only and suspends regulations that would impede rapid response. It also empowers emergency managers to use all available resources and personnel as deemed necessary.
The Nevada and Wisconsin National Guard contributed to this article.