As hurricane Irma makes landfall in Florida, the United States Army National Guard is being deployed to provide assistance. In South Carolina, for instance, 800 National Guard troops were deployed after state Governor Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency.
The National Guard is also being deployed to Florida, where some 3,800 troops are currently working. Governor Rick Scott, however, said this number will likely rise to 7,000 — the state’s full National Guard capacity — to cope with the damage caused by Irma.
With gusts up to 120 mph, Hurricane Irma is being called the strongest Atlantic hurricane in history. While it was a Category 5 several days earlier, though, it has since weakened to a Category 2 on the Saffir-Simpson scale. Nonetheless, officials are warning those in path to take cover, as it still poses a serious risk. Thankfully, the National Guard is being deployed to keep the roads safe and provide search-and-rescue missions when needed.
When speaking about the National Guard’s deployment, 1st Lt. John Kerr, a Black Hawk Pilot with the 2/238th explained the Guard’s main job is humanitarian efforts and medical evacuation. This is particularly true for regions in which evacuations are difficult, including the Virgin Islands. With ports decimated, thousands of Americans are stuck on these islands with limited access to food, water and medicine. The Natural Guard’s job is to help these Americans get back to the continental states safely.
“Our main job is to focus on humanitarian efforts and provide medical evacuation and triage as well as patient transfer from hurricane-affected areas in the Caribbean, especially the Virgin Islands,” said 1st Lt. John Kerr, a Black Hawk Pilot with the 2/238th. “The mission will be to go where others cannot to rescue and aid any civilian personnel we can.”
Medical evacuations from the Virgin Islands typically involve the use of UH-60 Black Hawk military helicopters. First introduced in the late 1970s, the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter is a four-bladed, twin-engine utility helicopter. It receives its namesake from the Native American leader Black Hawk. Since its introduction in the U.S. military, it has carried out both combat and humanitarian missions in dozens of countries throughout the world.
Of course, it’s not uncommon for the National Guard to deploy in response to natural disasters. Whether it’s hurricanes, floods, wildfires or tornadoes, the National Guard is standing by to provide help. When given the order, they deploy to the affected areas to offer humanitarian assistance.