CHARLESTON, S.C. (AFNS) -- National Guard members have flowed in from at least 28 states to help North and South Carolina units support civil authorities following Hurricane Florence.
More than 6,600 Army and Air National Guardsmen are responding today to Florence, according to National Guard Bureau officials.
Meanwhile, the National Guard continues to respond to storms affecting Hawaii and Guam and to wildfires affecting Western states, in addition to support on the Southwest border and overseas deployments.
In the aftermath of Florence, the National Guard is providing aircraft and crews, including UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, C-17 Globemaster III and C-130 Hercules military transport aircraft, and KC-135 Stratotanker refuelers. The guard also is providing swift-water boats and high-water vehicles for rescue; generators; security; communications; road clearing and debris removal assistance; food, water and cot deliveries; and support to shelters and distribution points.
The North and South Carolina National Guards are focused on life-saving, search and rescue and relief missions, and each state's guard has already conducted hundreds of such missions.
Supporting states include Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin. The District of Columbia National Guard also is supporting the response.
Florence has brought more than 40 inches of rain, leaving communities in both states bracing for the prospect of flooding potentially affecting thousands of miles of roads.
In North Carolina, the guard's first priority is safeguarding lives and property. Hundreds of missions have been completed, mostly east of Interstate 95, including search and rescue, swift-water rescue support, sandbag operations, commodities distribution, evacuations and support to local law enforcement and first responders.
"We'll be standing in a very long line of National Guardsmen that goes back nearly 400 years; it's uniquely a National Guard mission," Army Maj. Gen. Gregory A. Lusk, the adjutant general of the North Carolina National Guard, told guardsmen responding in his state.
"This is our National Guard at its best," said Air Force Maj. Gen. Anthony Carrelli, Pennsylvania's adjutant general, in response to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf sending troops and equipment to help with the response and recovery efforts in South Carolina.
Kentucky sent 60 members of the Kentucky Army National Guard's 63rd Theater Aviation Brigade. The unit's command and control center will synchronize aviation efforts of communication, rescue operations and overall assistance to those affected by the storm.
"This is one of the best parts of being a guardsman, answering the call for help from citizens of our neighboring states," said Army Col. Dwayne Lewis, commander of the Kentucky Army National Guard's 63rd Theater Aviation Brigade. "As an aviation unit, we know the expertise we bring is sometimes the only hope that those in need may have, and we take the mission of supporting our neighbors and rendering life-sustaining aid very seriously."
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan authorized deployment of the Maryland Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team to North Carolina to help in rescue efforts from flooding due to Hurricane Florence.
The MD-HART team consists of two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters with eight crew members and three maintainers from the Maryland Army National Guard, and helicopter search and rescue technicians from Baltimore, Harford, Howard, and Montgomery counties.
The Maryland Emergency Management Agency continues to coordinate Maryland's response and support to affected states through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact.