COLUMBIA, S.C. - The South Carolina National Guard filled and delivered sandbags Saturday to multiple counties in the state to help protect infrastructures in advance of flooding after Tropical Storm Florence's impacts of rain were beginning to be felt in areas in northeastern South Carolina.
The South Carolina National Guard is transporting and placing the one-ton sandbags to prevent flooding in the Pee Dee Region. Soldiers from the 218th Brigade Support Battalion worked during the day and will continue throughout the night to fill, load, and move, what will ultimately include, more than 1,500 sandbags to Lake Busbee in Conway to assist with flood prevention along Highway 501.
As lakes, rivers and streams begin to flood, the South Carolina National Guard supports efforts to protect homes and businesses from rising waters. If needed, National Guard engineers can provide debris clearing capabilities with heavy equipment and chainsaws to clear roadways to ensure county officials and emergency response personnel can begin their assessments and identify any needs or hazards.
Additionally, the South Carolina Air National Guard is partnering with the Civil Air Patrol's search and rescue teams and U.S. Coast Guard to track and relay aerial movement, coordinate communication across the diverse group of units stationed throughout the state, and ensure synchronization with authorities to continue to plan for future operations. "As the weather clears, we will continue coordinate with these elements and begin looking at infrastructure and residencies," said South Carolina Air National Guard Maj. Bago Madrid, 169th Fighter Wing electronic combat pilot. "We will also continue to support the search and rescue teams to meet their needs."
If aerial rescue is needed, the South Carolina Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team (SC-HART) is on standby awaiting the call. SC-HART is a hybrid team of rescue specialists from the S.C. Urban Search & Rescue Task Force 1 and pilots and air crewmen from the South Carolina Army National Guard, 2nd Battalion, 151st Aviation Unit headquartered at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, in Eastover, South Carolina.
"We have been able to combine state and National Guard capabilities to not only support the citizens of South Carolina, but the nation as well," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Tripp Hutto, a UH-60 Black Hawk pilot with the 2nd Battalion, 151st Security and Support Aviation Battalion.
The SC-HART team is made up of Guard and civilian pilots and first responders who work and train together to provide needed search and rescue operations during floods and other natural disasters. Their missions have included rescues during Hurricane Harvey and the floods of 2015 where they rescued 35 civilians during their first day of operations. "This is why we have the HART team," said Hutto. "The purpose is to provide a capability to the state of South Carolina that didn't exist to our citizens. We blend our aviation expertise and military assets with civilian first responder expertise and assets and we have a well-oiled, all-purpose search and rescue capability."
In addition to SC-HART, the South Carolina National Guard has other assets available to assist in recovery and search and rescue efforts including more than 160 Light Medium Tactical Vehicles, which are capable of rescuing citizens in waters of three feet deep, staged throughout the state to assist local fire and rescue teams. Additional assets from outside the state include a HART team from Pennsylvania and a C-130 with 10 Zodiacs from the New York National Guard.
"This is what we train for year round," said Hutto. "The unique partnership is about neighbors helping neighbors."