‘Big Undertaking’: Several States Respond to Harvey

Washington Report

(August 29, 2017) Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called up the entire Texas National Guard Monday to assist civilian authorities with the epic flooding resulting from Hurricane Harvey. And several other state Guard units are arriving in the hard-hit areas to offer manpower, equipment and support.

Texas will have about 12,000 Guardsmen on duty. Those exempt from the governor’s call are troops deployed, preparing to deploy, in a combat-preparation cycle or physically unable.

“This will be a big undertaking,” said Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, the chief of the National Guard Bureau. Lengyel, quoted in the Houston Chronicle, noted that before it ends, Guard troops from “dozens of other states” could be involved, in an area stretching from Corpus Christi to Houston and areas inland that have been hit by disastrous flooding.

Maj. Gen. James C. Witham, the director of domestic operations at the National Guard Bureau, said at a press conference Tuesday that the Guard is posturing an additional 20,000 to 30,000 troops from the surrounding states so that “if requested, [they] can be brought in . . . to finish the response phase and start in with the recovery phase.”

The storm came ashore Friday as a Category 4 hurricane with winds up to 130 mph. It has dropped up to 50 inches of rain in some areas, including Houston, the fourth-largest city in the United States. So far, the storm has claimed 10 lives.

As of Tuesday, the tally of National Guard representation from other states included:

  • Alaska: About 13 airmen with the 176th Wing;
  • California: About 90 airmen with the 129th Rescue Wing;
  • Connecticut: One C-130 aircraft with eight airmen from the 103rd Airlift Wing;
  • Kentucky: Nearly 20 airmen with the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron;
  • New York: More than 100 airmen, one C-130, three HH-60 Pave Hawks and two C-17s with the 106th Rescue Wing; and
  • Oregon: About 15 members of the 125th Special Tactics Squadron, who will restore airfields so supplies can be flown in.

Additionally, six helicopters from units in Nebraska, North Carolina and Utah were heading to Texas, said the National Guard Bureau.

Other Guard missions in the stricken areas include bridging, water rescue, logistics movement and medical-water purification.

Meanwhile, neighboring Louisiana is bracing for the rains from now-Tropical Storm Harvey. As directed by Gov. John Bel Edward, the Louisiana Guard has activated approximately 210 soldiers and airmen, with an additional 230 full-time Guard members supporting efforts.

Last week, the Louisiana Guard began positioning Guard members, high-water vehicles and boats in south Louisiana parishes.

“Being ready and in place is as important as any training that we do, and our engagements at parish level are absolutely critical,” said Maj. Gen. Glenn H. Curtis, the Louisiana adjutant general. “In anticipation of the storm’s track, we continue prepositioning equipment and vehicles in potentially affected areas as well as responding to the immediate needs of today.”

In addition to vehicles and boats, the Louisiana Guard has eight helicopters ready to support search and rescue, evacuation and recon missions as needed.