By Sgt. Debra CookSeptember 7, 2017
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency on Labor Day in anticipation of Hurricane Irma's pending arrival, and while communities began stocking up on food and water, Florida's Army and Air National Guard were already activating military personnel.
Unit leadership began issuing notifications to Soldiers located throughout the state, including the 107th Mobile Public Affairs' top noncommissioned officer, 1st Sgt. Stephen Richards. His role is to support the Soldiers that capture and share the work of the Florida National Guard in action through stories and photos.
"No assignments have been issued as of yet, but the potential outlook for Hurricane Irma to impact our state has increased as of this morning," said Richards. "Be ready; prepare yourself and your families."
The next day, Soldiers belonging to a variety of Florida National Guard units began to report to their unit armories. It is during these early moments, when the National Guard G4 (which functions as the logistics department of the Florida National Guard), implements its contingency planning and is a key department in supporting contingencies - including natural disasters brought on by hurricanes.
"The primary mission of logistics is all-encompassing," said Lt. Col. Blake Heidelberg, the Florida Army National Guard's G4 Defense Support of Civil Authority (DSCA) Coordinator. "We have to be positioned and prepared to support the entire Florida National Guard, to include the Air National Guard, in order to sustain long term in austere environments."
After the storm passes, the Florida National Guard will work with the state's civilian authorities to work rescue and recovery operations. Logistical Staging Areas (LSAs) and Points of Distribution (PODs) will be set up, military personnel put in place and supplies delivered.
"In a hurricane, there are so many unknowns. Where will it impact? What will the short- and long-term damage be? The mission is to plan and support every potential outcome," said Heidelberg. "Much of the coordination can't take place until the storm has passed."
Water, food, diapers and tarps are just a few of the items that are coordinated and provided to displaced families. Military personnel also assist local law enforcement officers to provide security and assist communities by clearing downed trees from routes so that first responders can travel unhindered and families can safely return home without concern of additional damage to homes and property.
"A natural disaster or catastrophic event usually results in significant impacts over an extended period of time. It overwhelms state and local communities while almost immediately exceeding resources," said Deputy Chief of Logistics, G4, Col. Frank A. Zenko. "As logisticians, it is imperative to anticipate needs and then pre-position equipment and supplies in order to rapidly respond to areas impacted by the storm."