Florida National Guard called out
As soon as forecasters tracking Hurricane Dorian projected Palm Beach County and neighboring areas could be hit hard, the Florida Army National Guard was mobilized.
Lieutenant Colonel Jeff Moore left behind his wife and one month old baby, and drove down from Saint Augustine to join the command of the 254 Transportation Battalion, as the state waited to see what impact the storm will have there, Guardian contributor Maria Bakkalapulo reports.
“We transport – whether it be personnel or commodities in support of the relief effort, such as food, water, ice, tarps, whatever is needed,” Moore told the Guardian, as he oversaw preparations at the Callaway Armory in West Palm Beach yesterday.
The 160 soldiers in his unit are driving and unloading military trucks and utility vehicles, carrying supplies from the logistics readiness center in Orlando, with another 160 men and women from a sister battalion, the 160th of Crystal River, a field artillery unit.
“You know, the quickest way to move stuff around is with our interstate system. The I-10, I-75, I-95 highways – that’s where the logistical planning comes in,” says Command Sergeant Major Tom Aycock with the 254 Transportation Company.
He has been working with the National Guard on hurricane rescue and relief since the devastating Hurricane Andrew in 1992, a Category 5 Hurricane.
“When we get to where the citizens need is and there is nothing more rewarding than be able to help someone out during a time of crisis.”
The chain of command begins in state capital Tallahassee and branches out to liaise with each county emergency center and law enforcement.
Inside the busy facility, a mess hall was set with tables, and cots lined up on the floor for newly arrived Guardsmen catch up on some sleep.
“We have to keep them rested – we never know when they might be called upon to be out for 36 hours or more in the field” said Aycock.
Outside, men and women prepped a huge array of vehicles – tall off-road hauling rigs, humvees, lifts and backhoes, communication cars and fuel trucks, as the hurricane’s first heavy rains start to hammer down from ominous skies.
Some guardsmen are active duty military, while others are civilians, from plumbers to doctors to teachers in their full-time jobs. Plumbers, especially, can come in handy in a hurricane situation, Aycock said.
National Guard are permitted to carry arms on the streets, unlike conventional forces, and Aycock thinks that show of force is welcome reassurance. “Unfortunately, there’s an element that presents itself in some disasters where you need law enforcement.”