FORT MEADE, Md. — As Hurricane Florence inches closer to making landfall along the East Coast, Soldiers have helped position relief supplies and equipment such as high-water trucks, helicopters and flat-bottomed boats at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency set up a staging base at Bragg’s Simmons Army Airfield, where Soldiers have helped station 400 trailers stocked with relief supplies including blankets, water and cots.
FEMA has also set up a center at Fort A.P. Hill stocked with 569,028 meals, 1,658,976 bottles of water, 23 generators and 1,355 cots.
National Guard members have been activated in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, while active-duty Soldiers remain on standby to assist if needed.
Should the area take a heavy hit, the Army has also been preparing to mobilize needed equipment including power generators, water filters, and hand-held radios.
“We think that it’s going to hit locally and we have the capability to respond,” said Lt. Col. Michael Burns, 18th Airborne Corps public affairs officer at Fort Bragg. “We don’t really know what’s going to happen. We’re taking actions to be prepared if called upon.”
Tuesday afternoon, the 82nd Airborne moved helicopters from Bragg to a facility near Atlanta to keep them safe from high winds. The aircraft can mobilize to assist in the relief efforts if necessary.
U.S. Army North will lead the response efforts and has deployed defense coordinating officers and elements to assist FEMA’s efforts along the Carolinas’ coast. The 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command at Bragg is capable of executing water rescue missions with light medium tactical vehicles, Burns said.
“We’re looking at the path of the hurricane, where it’s expected to hit, what are the anticipated impacts,” said Col. Michael Lawhorn, U.S Army Forces Command public affairs director. “And then figuring out the best way to position ourselves … in the recovery efforts. The active-duty Army hasn’t been called upon yet. We’re just making sure that if we do get asked, we are ready to go at a moment’s notice.”
Additionally, U.S. Army North has deployed a command and control element — Task Force 51 — to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, to provide coordination near the disaster response area, said Lt. Col. Catherine Wilkinson, U.S. Army North public affairs officer.
At Bragg, Soldiers have begun disaster preparation at the massive training base that sits about 150 miles inland from the coast. They have filled sandbags and staged portable kitchens and water tanks near barracks.
Soldiers have opened a garrison Emergency Operations center to help coordinate disaster response. Burns said that 47 Black Hawk helicopters remain on standby at Bragg to help with the relief efforts.
The Army has cancelled training activities in preparation for the storm, and Fort Bragg will operate on limited staffing to reduce the number of commuters on the roads. Paul Boyce, FORSCOM deputy public affairs officer, said this will help keep roadways clear for emergency vehicles to respond.
“Our big focus has been on getting prepared for the storm, trying to keep people safe and trying to get people to understand that it is a potentially serious weather event… (we) need to take precautions,” Boyce said.