ARLINGTON, Va. - As Hurricane Irma bears down Tuesday on the Caribbean, National Guard units are sending personnel to aid their civilian counterparts in the path of the storm.
Irma has been classified as a Category 5 storm with maximum winds of 175 mph, and states of emergency have been declared in Florida and Puerto Rico.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott activated 100 members of the Florida National Guard and said he planned to mobilize all 7,000 Guard members by Friday. Scott's delcaration applies to all 67 state counties, according to a news release from his office.
And Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands activated their National Guard units on Tuesday.
The Illinois National Guard has sent a C-130 aircraft and crew to the U.S. Virgin Islands to deliver key response capabilities to the islands ahead of the storm.The C-130 Hercules aircraft, with seven crew members, flew out of its base in Peoria, Illinois, near midnight, Sept. 2, flying to Colorado to pick up a National Guard Bureau Joint Enabling Team (JET) and then delivered it to the Virgin Islands.
The JET assists in coordinating needed support to areas affected by natural disasters or other emergencies through advanced communications equipment and experts in disaster response operations, intelligence, logistics, personnel and public affairs.
Rhode Island on Monday sent a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft and aircrew from the 143d Airlift Wing, Rhode Island Air National Guard, to support the preparation effort, according to a news release.
The Airmen left out of Quonset Air National Guard Base, North Kingstown, Rhode Island, heading to New Jersey where the crew will load boxes of Meals Ready to Eat (MRE). The aircrew will then transport the cargo to the St. Croix and St. Thomas ahead of the forecasted storm.
Meanwhile, recovery from Hurricane Harvey continues in Texas, where more than 18,000 National Guard personnel were on duty, according to the National Guard Bureau.
Heading to Texas were 10 Soldiers from the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. They left Fort Indiantown Gap on Sept. 1, Gov. Tom Wolf said. The Soldiers, flying in two CH-47 Chinook helicopter, will potentially deliver food and water to stranded people and rescue those still in need.
On Aug. 31, a C-130 from the Peoria, Illinois-based 182nd Airlift Wing joined the federal Hurricane Harvey relief and recovery efforts and has been transporting people, supplies and equipment.
As of early Saturday morning, that crew had transported more than 60 evacuees out of danger including 20 children, four disabled adults and some 3,000 pounds of personal belongings and had delivered more than 7,500 pounds of relief supplies and equipment.
In addition, two Airmen from the Springfield, Illinois-based 183rd Wing,183rd Air Mobility Squadron traveled on Sept. 1 to Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida to assist 1st Air Force in the operations center that is coordinating the Air Force's portion of the relief efforts.
Also on Sept. 1, two C-130 Hercules aircraft and 14 more Airmen deployed from the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville to fly humanitarian aid and airlift evacuation missions in Texas following unprecedented flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey.
"Like their forebears, the Minutemen, these Airmen have put their regular lives on hold to help our neighbors in need," said Maj. Gen. Richard J. Hayes, the adjutant general of the Illinois National Guard. "We thank them for their service and we thank their families and employers."
Contributing: National Guard offices of Illinois, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island