Guard members help states prepare for Gustav

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke
  • American Forces Press Service
Through Emergency Management Assistance Compacts, National Guard members from around the country are signing up to support states in the path of Tropical Storm Gustav.

"EMAC provides a responsive and straightforward system for the National Guard in unaffected states to send lifesaving capabilities, such as personnel and equipment, to help in affected states," Rick Breitenfeldt, a public affairs officer at the National Guard Bureau, explained.

Approved by Congress in 1996, EMAC is a mutual aid partnership agreement among the 54 states and territories that allows state-to-state assistance during governor-declared or federally declared emergencies.

"EMAC is about governors helping fellow governors in time of need," Breitenfeldt said.

In 2005, EMAC deployed more than 65,000 personnel to the affected states after hurricanes Katrina and Rita. "That was the largest deployment of state-to-state aid in history and stands as a testament to EMAC's effectiveness and efficiency," Breitenfeldt said.

So far this year, the Louisiana National Guard has requested 20 aircraft from eight states, because their UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and about 360 soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 244th Aviation Regiment, are currently deployed to Iraq, said Army Sgt. First Class Melaine Rowton with the Louisiana National Guard.

During Hurricane Katrina three years ago, the battalion rescued about 16,000 people in the area.

The 1st Battalion, 114th Security and Support, of the 77th Aviation Brigade based at Camp Joseph T. Robinson in North Little Rock, Ark., will deploy more than 40 soldiers to Pineville, La. The group also will include five Air National Guard members from the 154th Weather Flight at Little Rock Air Force Base, according to a news release from the Arkansas National Guard.

The 114th will provide airspace management and command and control of all aviation assets supporting the relief effort if required. The 154th will support the 114th with weather briefings and forecasts as well as providing resource protection for the airfield.

In preparation for another potential mission, the Fort Chaffee Maneuver Training Center near Fort Smith, Ark., has identified temporary emergency sheltering for up to 4,000 evacuees, the Arkansas Guard announced.

With the support of federal, state and emergency responders, Fort Chaffee's role potentially would include evacuee reception and accountability, housing and shelter, subsistence, medical care, transportation, information management and public safety, along with command and control of all operations through the establishment of an emergency operations center.

According to the Arkansas Guard, the state has a detailed operations plan in place to support all operations, many of which were either developed or improved through the lessons learned with Hurricane Katrina, when more than 10,000 evacuees were processed through the post.

In Texas, the governor has requested aeromedical support. The 137th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron from Oklahoma City, Okla., will provide five crew members, who will stage at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, and transport special-needs personnel from communities threatened by the storm. About 30 aeromedical crewmembers from the 166th AES in New Castle, Del., also will depart today for Texas.

"This is the right thing to do. Our men and women are highly trained for these tasks, and our Delaware National Guard troops are ready to help if American lives are at risk and our assistance is called upon," Army Maj. Gen. Frank Vavala, adjutant general of the Delaware National Guard, said.

The Indiana National Guard also has been alerted for possible duty in the Gulf Coast region. The 38th Sustainment Brigade from Kokomo, Ind., and Headquarters, 38th Infantry Division from Indianapolis may be activated for command and control and other rapid-response operations, Army Lt. Col. Deedra Thombleson, the state public affairs officer, said.