MADISON, Wis. - The Wisconsin National Guard stands ready to assist civilian authorities supporting Hurricane Sandy relief efforts in the impacted regions, Gov. Scott Walker said Tuesday.
"Wisconsin's outstanding National Guard is ready to help those affected by Hurricane Sandy," Walker said. "As our nation braces for this massive storm, Wisconsin is hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst. If resources are needed, Wisconsin stands ready to deploy the National Guard for assistance."
According to Col. Mark Michie, director of the Wisconsin National Guard's domestic operations, Wisconsin Guard members have been identified to provide support if requested as part of a FEMA Region V ground task force. Wisconsin National Guard assets have not been requested yet, but Wisconsin has more than a dozen force packages available.
There is precedent for this type of response - the Wisconsin National Guard supported relief efforts following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and ice storms in Kentucky and floods in North Dakota in 2009. Emergency Management Assistance Compacts - ratified by Congress and law in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands - allow states to provide mutual aid if needed.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has agreed with governors in Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, New jersey, Massachusetts and Rhode Island to appoint dual status commanders - National Guard general officers authorized to command both federal forces and National Guard troops on state duty. This special authority enables dual commanders to effectively integrate defense support operations and capability requested by governors.
Brig. Gen. Scott Legwold, director of the Wisconsin National Guard Joint Staff, oversees domestic operations in Wisconsin such as National Guard response efforts for floods, snowstorms and tornadoes. He is qualified to serve as a dual status commander in Wisconsin should the need arise, and understands the role dual status commanders will play on the East Coast.
"No other organization has the National Guard's combination of size, skills, training and experience, placement across the nation, command and communications infrastructure, and the legal flexibility to support civil authorities at a moment's notice," Legwold said. "If needed, we can draw on that expertise to best apply active duty assets, such as personnel and equipment, after disaster strikes to save lives, ease human suffering and help restore normalcy."
The National Guard Bureau reports that more than 61,100 National Guard troops are available to assist civilian authorities supporting relief efforts in the impacted regions. Among the assets the National Guard can bring to the effort include nearly 140 helicopters for search and rescue, reconnaissance, and personnel/cargo transport missions.
Gen. Frank Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said as the nation's first military responder - is closely monitoring Hurricane Sandy and coordinating with federal, state and local partners in a cooperative effort to save lives, protect property and support recovery efforts.
"Units across the National Guard are making the necessary preparations to respond to the needs of any states affected by Hurricane Sandy," Grass said. "Rest assured the National Guard is poised and ready to provide proven responders and capabilities."
Sgt. 1st Class Jim Greenhill of the National Guard Bureau contributed to this report