STARKE, Fla. – Ahead of any dangerous hurricane or potential natural disaster, the governor of Florida has the authority to activate the state's National Guard. Since the numbers and specific equipment needed might vary depending on the severity of the threat, it is vital for senior leaders at the state level and the Division of Emergency Management to understand the Guard's capabilities.
With that goal in mind, the adjutant general of Florida, Maj. Gen. James O. Eifert and key Florida National Guard leaders met Tuesday with DEM Director Jared Moskowitz at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center post headquarters.
Joined by Legislative Affairs Director Jared Rosenstein and Chief of Staff Jon Bussey, Moskowitz was briefed on the successes and lessons dating back to the state's response after destructive Hurricane Irma, the largest response effort in state history, and last year's category 5 storm, Hurricane Michael, that wreaked havoc on the Florida panhandle.
"It's a great opportunity for us to work directly with the director of emergency management and explain to him how the Florida National Guard is postured to respond to hurricane season and make sure that we're basically on the same sheet of music before we respond to the next disaster," said one of the briefers, Lt. Col. Blake Heidelberg, director of military support. "The citizens can rest assured that we're ready this year."
Following the extensive briefing, Moskowitz and his entourage toured Camp Blanding Joint Training Center in a UH-60 L Black Hawk flown by members of 1st Battalion, 185th Aviation Regiment from Brooksville. Director of Plans, Operations and Training for CBJTC, Lt. Col. Shep Allen, narrated the tour over a headset while the group flew over the vast training area.
Seeing Florida National Guard capabilities, along with touring the location built for training and operations, solidified the director's trust in the organization and gave him confidence that the people of Florida are in good hands during throughout the next months, the peak of hurricane season.
"There is no question that the Guard has proven, tested and succeeded overwhelmingly in the last two years with both Irma and Michael," said the director. "The confidence that I have in the Guard didn't just come from today's briefing, it also comes from in the field, the Guard delivering and stepping up for the state. Where we have an inability to deliver logistics and support, the Guard comes in and backfills us. Without the Guard … I don't know what the department would have done."