National Guard October 2011 : Page 26

Storm Response T WAS A promise thank-fully unfulfilled. As Hurricane Irene gath-ered steam in the Atlantic Ocean and churned toward the shore-line of America’s East Coast in late August, the nation and the National Guard planned for the worst. At one time, nearly 8,000 Guards-Dual-status commanders activated as Irene provides a real preview of the next response to a major disaster 2.0 “As Irene approached the United States, our [National Guard Coordina-tion Center] was coordinating with the states, territories and the District of Columbia, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Northern Command to ensure the most effective National Guard support to civil authorities,” said Gen. Craig I men from 18 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico had responded in anticipation of a violent battering from the storm. And the National Guard Bureau ramped up its coordination center in Arlington, Va., to better synchronize the effort between the states and the federal agencies. 26 | Na tional Guard

Storm Response 2.0

Dual-status commanders activated as Irene provides a real preview of the next response to a major disaster<br /> <br /> IT WAS A promise thankfully unfulfilled.<br /> <br /> As Hurricane Irene gathered steam in the Atlantic Ocean and churned toward the shoreline of America's East Coast in late August, the nation and the National Guard planned for the worst.<br /> <br /> At one time, nearly 8,000 Guardsmen from 18 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico had responded in anticipation of a violent battering from the storm.<br /> <br /> And the National Guard Bureau ramped up its coordination center in Arlington, Va., to better synchronize the effort between the states and the federal agencies.<br /> <br /> "As Irene approached the United States, our [National Guard Coordination Center] was coordinating with the states, territories and the District of Columbia, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Northern Command to ensure the most effective National Guard support to civil authorities," said Gen. Craig R. McKinley, the chief of the National Guard Bureau.<br /> <br /> "[It enabled] us to bring the full benefit of our size, skills, training, experience, command and communication infrastructure, and legal flexibility to the whole-of-government response to the storm."<br /> <br /> The Guard moved troops and equipment into place ahead of the storm. Even Alaska got into the act with search-and-rescue assets moving to West Virginia as the storm advanced.<br /> <br /> "Our Alaska National Guardsmen are unparalleled in their experience in saving lives and they are the perfect choice to assist civilian authorities during this potential national emergency," said Gov. Sean Parnell as the troops prepared to leave home.<br /> <br /> Also, four dual-status incident commanders were appointed in anticipation of a call-up of active-component troops to augment the Guard, a first for a storm emergency. These commanders have the authority to lead both federal forces and Guardsmen in a state status during a specific domestic emergency in a given state.<br /> <br /> But the complete calamity predicted by weather prognosticators up and down the Eastern Seaboard never materialized, at least for the most part. Rain and wind did pelt the country, but not with the predicted ferocity. At least 45 people in 13 states died in the storm, and tens of thousands lost power for up to week, but the wallop expected was mostly a tease.<br /> <br /> However, the bullet that mostly grazed some states landed squarely on tiny Vermont.<br /> <br /> Historic flooding followed historic rains. Houses were washed away and roads inundated. Whole communities were cut off as long stretches of highways were damaged.<br /> <br /> Fortunately, the Green Mountain State was not in the fight alone.<br /> <br /> "What began as a Vermont National Guard mission has now become a true multistate National Guard mission," Lt. Col. Lloyd Goodrow, state public affairs officer, said as the situation in his state became clear to everyone, "and that's something we're very proud of. States continue to call to lend their hand. This is a time when, really, the National Guard shines."<br /> <br /> Connecticut, Illinois, Maine and New Hampshire were on the ground in Vermont when Goodrow spoke early last month. Ohio, South Carolina and Virginia were sending troops and equipment. They would be joined by those from Massachusetts and West Virginia, among others.<br /> <br /> "They call, we haul," said 1st Lt. A.J. Hager of the Illinois Army Guard and a crewman on a CH-47 Chinook helicopter doing work in Vermont, according to the Boston Globe. "That's the catch phrase in the Chinook world."<br /> <br /> "This is exactly how the Emergency Management Assistance Compact system is supposed to work," said Maj. Gen. Daniel Long, the Virginia adjutant general. "When a state needs additional capability to assist in a time of need, they can reach out to other states to provide that capability. We are glad to be able to assist the citizens of Vermont with their cleanup effort. I am sure they would do the same thing for us."<br /> <br /> "I don't believe we could do it without [the National Guard]," said Brian Searles, the Vermont secretary of transportation. "We're just thrilled that the National Guard has come through in this way so quickly."<br /> <br /> About 200 soldiers and airmen from Maine responded within 36 hours of Vermont's request for help, bringing 169 pieces of heavy engineering equipment, including bulldozers and excavators.<br /> <br /> The Maine Guard "feels incredibly honored to assist in the recovery operation to the people of Vermont," said Lt. Col. Normand Michaud, commander of the 133rd Engineer Battalion.<br /> <br /> Prior to the storm's landfall, how-ever, there was action all up and down the country's East Coast as states turned to the Guard to protect their citizens and property from the storm.<br /> <br /> Five hundred Guardsmen in Massachusetts were deployed as the storm approached. The number in North Carolina was 150. In Pennsylvania, it was 1,500.<br /> <br /> In Delaware, 1,500 Guardsmen were called to assist with mandatory evacuation along the coast. Rhode Island had 300 on standby. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo mobilized 2,000 troops.<br /> <br /> NGB said more than 100,000 Guardsmen were available, if needed.<br /> <br /> While states were preparing for the storm's arrival, the Puerto Rico Guard was already doing cleanup work in the storm's wake. Irene hit the U.S. territory in the Caribbean on Aug. 21 with winds reaching 130 mph and dropped nearly a foot of rain. Half the island was without power by the time Irene had moved on.<br /> <br /> While Irene passed without making weather history, it did require the Guard to make a little bit of institutional news. For the first time, a storm caused the Guard to appoint dual-status commanders who would be able to command active-component troops should their presence be required to assist.<br /> <br /> The only other time so called "dual- hatted" commanders had been used was during planned events such as major meetings of international leaders, like the G-8 economic summit.<br /> <br /> Four were appointed ahead of Irene. They were Brig. Gen. James Trogden III of the North Carolina Army Guard, Brig. Gen. Carolyn Protzmann of the New Hampshire Air Guard, Brig. Gen. Michael Swezey of the New York Army Guard and Col. Donald Lagor of the Rhode Island Air Guard.<br /> <br /> Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta issued a prepare-to-deploy order Aug. 27 to 6,500 active-component troops from across the services. They were leaning forward to support the hurricane relief effort if orders came.<br /> <br /> No federal forces were needed, as it turned out, but the dual-status commanders were prepared.<br /> <br /> "I felt very comfortable with the whole thing, more so than I thought I would," Lagor said.<br /> <br /> The dual-status commander idea came from governors who saw the confusion caused by separate lines of command for troops fighting the same battle when disasters strike. The dual-status commanders are appointed only after an agreement between the governor and the secretary of defense.<br /> <br /> "It's a great idea," said Trogden. "This is the kind of coordination we should have been doing a long time ago. Having this as a tool is going to be beneficial in how we respond to future events."<br /> <br /> He said driving the idea in part was the financial trouble the country faces. In good economic times, it was an easy call to respond to an emergency.<br /> <br /> "If you just show up with everything and you don't need it, that was good," he said. "We can't afford to do that anymore."<br /> <br /> The dual-status commander can better coordinate the resources available and avoid duplication in the process.<br /> <br /> Lagor agreed. This system provides "unity of effort so you don't step all over each other. Everything gets funneled up through that dual-status commander."<br /> <br /> Despite not calling up the active-component troops after Irene, he saw the value and learned a lesson along the way.<br /> <br /> "I learned the paperwork process is not as easy as they make it seem in the course," he said.<br /> <br /> The battle against Irene, then, was left to the Guard. And the men and women responded as they are trained to do.<br /> <br /> "Whenever I'm needed and wherever something is happening, I want to be there," said Sgt. Windollyn V. Patino, a motor transport operator with the New York Army Guard's 719th Transportation Company. "That's what I'm here for."<br /> <br /> Another New York Guardsman, Pvt. Raimond Restbergs, spent a weekend assisting at shelters in Manhattan where people had taken refuge.<br /> <br /> "It's an eye-opening experience," he told the Wall Street Journal. "It shocked me–the helplessness. . . . Just seeing someone in uniform really brought joy to them."<br /> <br /> Members of the New Jersey Air Guard and Army Guard were asked to move about 90 dogs and 140 cats that had been evacuated from kennels ahead of the storm, according to the Newark, N.J., Star Ledger.<br /> <br /> "They're so cute," said Spc. Adam Thron before giving a puppy a hug. "I love animals."<br /> <br /> Soldiers from the Virginia Guard were called to duty in Vermont after the storm had passed to assist with the cleanup effort.<br /> <br /> "My guys are really excited," said 1st Lt. Bryan Hicks, commander of the 157th Engineer Platoon. "It was short notice, but in 24 hours we were here and ready to go. This reinforces the idea of being a citizen-soldier. We are citizens first, but we are also soldiers and know at any moment we can get the call whether it is for stateside duty or overseas."<br /> <br /> All of the effort from the various Guardsmen was appreciated in Vermont, where Irene's wrath was most felt.<br /> <br /> "Without the National Guard right now, I'm not sure we'd be still standing here in Pittsfield, Vermont. So, thank you, Guard," said Peter Borden, Pittsfield's emergency management coordinator. "I've relied on the National Guard."<br /> <br /> Compiled from news releases, media reports and interviews by NGAUS staff. Comments and questions can be sent to magazine@ngaus.org.<br /> <br /> "Having this as a tool is going to be beneficial in how we respond to future events."<br /> <br /> –Brig. Gen. James Trogden III<br /> <br /> Dual-status commander for Irene in North Carolina<br /> <br /> "What began as a Vermont National Guard mission has now become a true multistate National Guard mission."<br /> <br /> –Lt. Col. Lloyd Goodrow<br /> <br /> Vermont National Guard <br />

Previous Page  Next Page


Publication List
Using a screen reader? Click Here