More than 15,500 Army and Air Guard members from at least seven states are supporting Hurricane Irma relief efforts in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, North and South Carolina, and the territories of Puerto Rico and the U.S Virgin Islands.
Another 4,500 Guard members are in transit to hurricane-stricken areas. The latest to leave, more than 2,500 Wisconsin National Guard troops, began loading up into military trucks or aircraft, as they made their way to Florida.
Meanwhile, more than 300 service members temporarily based in Honduras are prepared to respond to the Hurricane Irma relief effort in the eastern Caribbean Sea, according to a U.S. Southern Command press release. Joint Task Force-Leeward Islands is poised to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to the island of Saint Martin. JTF-LI is equipped with several disaster relief capabilities, including command and control, humanitarian assessment, water production and helicopter transportation, according to the release.
The mobilization of JTF-LI is the latest disaster relief operation initiated by the Department of Defense, which is working in conjunction with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Northern Command, and the U.S. Coast Guard to coordinate relief efforts.
In the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico approximately 4,600 service members are supporting disaster relief operations. Leadership from the 26th MEU is conducting reconnaissance to assess the damage. The Marines delivered more than 23 pallets of water, more than 18 pallets of food, as well as additional supplies and equipment. Marine Corps aircraft transported more than 150 British Royal Marines and FEMA leadership to the U.S. and British Virgin Islands to support relief operations.
Another 10,400 service members are supporting relief operations in Florida. The aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln is positioned off Florida’s coast and the amphibious assault ship Iwo Jima and the amphibious transport dock New York arrive today.
In addition to the relief efforts in Florida and VIPR, U.S. Southern Command coordinated the evacuation of nearly 2,000 persons over the past three days.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with those who have suffered loss during this time,” said Marine Col. Michael Samarov, commander of JTF-LI. “We are honored to help in any way we can.”
Mackenzie Wolf is an editorial intern for Military Times.