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South Florida Guard units prepare ahead of hurricane season

By Capt. Jesse Manzano | Florida National Guard | April 12, 2018

ORLANDO, Fla. - It's not hurricane season yet, but Soldiers with the Florida National Guard's 50th Regional Support Group (RSG) out of Homestead are already preparing to support civilian authorities in case a storm threatens the state again in the coming months.

Soldiers from the Guard's 930th Digital Liaison Detachment (DLD), the 856th Quartermaster Company, the 50th RSG Headquarters Company and several civilian organizations gathered in Orlando last weekend at the State Logistics Response Center (SLRC) to coordinate the state's logistics response during and after a hurricane, and receive the training necessary to ensure the units are ready to take over operations of the SLRC.

"In the past, one of the challenges facing the units responsible for supporting the SLRC was that they didn't have a backup in case they were deployed or had a different mission," said Lt. Colonel Steven Knox, executive officer with the 930th DLD. "What we have learned is that having only one unit with the experience to do this mission is a potential downfall, which is why we are training the 50th RSG to be our reserve in case we are unavailable."

Running the SLRC, a 200,000 square-foot warehouse and office building located in Orlando, is critical to the state's ability to respond to any type of natural disaster. Opened in 2007, the SLRC was the answer to then-Gov. Jeb Bush's challenge to the state's Emergency Management agency to find more efficient ways to handle, process and deliver aid to Floridians in need after a hurricane or other natural disaster. Eleven years after its opening, the protocols and procedures developed in this facility by civilian authorities in partnership with the National Guard are being studied by other states.

Maj. Jeff Fanelli, plans officer with the Nevada National Guard, also participated in the training at the SLRC. While Nevada doesn't have a similar depot, the state serves as the staging area for West Coast states in case of natural disasters. "We are definitively interested in learning best practices in dealing with emergencies from Florida, which has tremendous experience in this domain," Fanelli said. "The SLRC is impressive and reminds us of the importance of pre-positioning supplies in case of emergencies."

During the training, representatives from the state's Department of Emergency Management and the 930th DLD briefed the participants on key tasks, duties and general SLRC operations, as well as gave them an opportunity to have hands-on instruction with their counterparts on their respective areas of responsibilities.

"The SLRC is the key component for any disaster relief operation that happens in Florida," said Knox. "Every commodity that comes into the state of Florida during an emergency is received and distributed through this warehouse. Everything is accounted for here and the people who run this place are critical to the mission's success."