By Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Jim Greenhill
National Guard Bureau
ARLINGTON, Va. (11/09/2012) – As the two states at the epicenter of Superstorm Sandy’s damage absorbed a cruel second blow from a nor’easter, the National Guard continued round-the-clock missions to alleviate suffering.
“We were tracking Winter Storm Athena and prepared forces for possible further evacuations, shelter operations and rescues,” said Army Gen. Frank Grass, the chief of the National Guard Bureau. “We have a very deep bench of troops, capabilities and equipment to draw on nationwide through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact.”
More than 6,600 Army and Air National Guard Citizen-Soldiers and –Airmen from 12 states were distributing fuel and providing communications, security, shelter, debris removal and transportation support this morning.
"We had to be ready to respond big and fast – so the National Guard deployed in multiple states, creating ground task forces in advance of Hurricane Sandy,” Grass said. That “big and fast” response continued in full force today.
Citizen-Soldiers and –Airmen helped hand out more than 1.6 million meals, 747,396 bottles of water and 100,000 blankets to affected residents in New York alone through this morning. Meanwhile, West Virginia was just one example of a state where Guard members were helping their own communities with food and water distribution and power generation and route clearance even as they also sent generator assessment teams in mutual aid to New Jersey and New York.
The National Guard is providing Defense Department support to civilian authorities in a whole-of-government response to assist state, local and federal agencies.
In New Jersey and New York, National Guard dual-status commanders – Army Brig. Gen. James Grant and Army Brig. Gen. Michael Swezey – are coordinating active duty, National Guard and Reserve force recovery efforts.
“The dual-status commander concept is a tremendously powerful tool for responsiveness, command and control, continuity of operations and coordination that is providing greatly improved communication, collaboration and coordination in domestic responses,” Grass said.
In each affected state, the National Guard is responding as directed by the governor to support civilian authorities. At the federal level, the National Guard Bureau is engaged with partners such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Northern Command, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Defense Logistics Agency to match National Guard capabilities nationwide with community and state needs.
Through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, governors can draw on thousands of additional National Guard troops from other states, with all of the training, equipment and capabilities they offer.
National Guard members from Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia are all at work in New Jersey and New York, where they are providing supply, transportation, security and other support. Forty-seven National Guard chaplains from 12 states are helping residents, first responders and service members.
After more than a decade of domestic and overseas operations in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the National Guard stands at a historic peak of readiness and capabilities. “America’s investment in the National Guard as an operational force is paying tremendous dividends right here at home,” Grass said. “Many are seasoned combat veterans who bring their training and dedication to service to a critical domestic mission. They are saving lives, protecting infrastructure and helping these injured communities on a path back to normalcy.”
States are engaged in an extraordinary level of teamwork centered on the worst-affected areas:
Residents understood the whole-of-government teamwork: “Thank you … police, fire, utility, National Guard” someone sprayed on a boarded-up building at the entrance to Long Beach Island, N.J.
“Thank you for making it possible for all to vote,” someone tweeted as the election was underway Tuesday. “We salute you!”
Another tweet, typical of the appreciation expressed in person and through social media: “Thanks to the Guard for what you do and every day that you do it.”
As the Hurricane Sandy response continued, other Guard members remained tasked with force and key asset protection, Counterdrug operations and the Southwest border mission, among other domestic operations, while more than 33,000 supported overseas operations Wednesday, including in Afghanistan, the Balkans, Djibouti, Guantanamo Bay, Honduras, Kuwait and the Sinai peninsula of Egypt.