WASHINGTON — The Pentagon expects to initially apply search and rescue forces from the south, north and east once Hurricane Florence strikes land and delivers its blow, Pentagon officials said Thursday afternoon.
That will be followed by a second wave of support launched from ships now following the storm toward the East Coast, they said.
At least 7,000 military personnel, including para-rescuers, are already in position to assist during and after the storm, with “thousands more” ready to deploy within 24 hours, Pentagon officials told reporters Thursday.
“This is a no-fail mission for us,” Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, commander, North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), and commander, U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM), told Pentagon reporters.
O’Shaughnessy, joined by Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Global Security Kenneth Rapuano, said Defense Department assets are in position for “life-saving and life-sustaining actions.”
Both men urged those in the path of the hurricane to evacuate if ordered or suggested by the local authorities
“The actions the military services are taking are to protect the safety and well being of military communities and to ensure the readiness of those facilities,” Rapuano said.
There are 21 military facilities in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina — the anticipated main target of Hurricane Florence.
High-water clearance vehicles and helicopters are being positioned at areas as close to the storm’s anticipated path as possible, without placing them in possible danger, O’Shaughnessy said.
Additionally, at Ft. Bragg in North Carolina, another 40 high-wheeled vehicles and seven helicopters are ready at a hurricane-reinforced hanger, O’Shaughnessy said. Ft. Bragg, and Ft. A.P. Hill in Virginia are the military’s two staging areas for the hurricane rescue and relief efforts.
From the east, following the hurricane toward the coast are USS Arlington, an amphibious transport dock, and USS Kearsarge, an amphibious assault ship, as well as the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit to provide assistance, O’Shaughnessy said.
Other assets in place include 60 generators and transformers, 281,000 gallons of diesel fuel along with bottled water and non-perishables from the Defense Logistics Agency, satellite tracking from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, other relief resources staged by the U.S. Transportation Command and Army Corps of Engineers positioned to work on flood mitigation and other tasks, Rapuano said.
“We have surrounded the affected area with DoD capabilities,” O’Shaughnessy said.