WASHINGTON (Army News Service, June 4, 2007) - The Army is helping out U.S. states and territories that are in the paths of potentially deadly hurricanes by providing equipment to help fill shortages identified by National Guard commanders there, a senior Army official said June 1.

The Army is either issuing or loaning 2,600 pieces of equipment to a handful of coastal states, Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, said Brig. Gen. David Halverson, director of operations, readiness and mobilization, for the deputy chief of staff for operations and plans.

This announcement comes on the first official day of an Atlantic hurricane season that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting will be "above normal" in its hurricane activity, according to the NOAA Web site. NOAA is predicting as many as five major hurricanes that could be Category 3 or above. Hurricane Katrina was a Category 5 hurricane.

"Just like any war fight, we are trying to be postured mentally and physically so we can have success," Brig. Gen. Halverson said.

The equipment includes relief necessities, such as generators, trucks, Humvees and radios. Some of the equipment will be permanently assigned to fill shortages at the states, Brig. Gen. Halverson said. Equipment on loan is temporarily assigned and positioned within the state and will be returned at the end of hurricane season, in November.

The Army started issuing the equipment in May and expects that all will be in place by mid-June, Brig. Gen. Halverson said. Right now, a little more than half of the equipment is in place, he said. Some equipment is in transit to Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Brig. Gen. Halverson said that Army officials asked National Guard commanders in March for equipment assessments. With the supplemental equipping, Brig. Gen. Halverson said, commanders reported back to senior Army leaders that they can manage storms up to Category 3.

Above Category 3, Brig. Gen. Halverson said, states would use Emergency Management Assistance Compacts in place that would allow governors to borrow equipment and personnel from surrounding states. Above Category 5, states may need federal help with personnel and equipment, Brig. Gen. Halverson said.

Overall, lines of communication between state and federal agencies are now better equipped to manage disaster relief, and agencies are more focused on how to provide aid and less on establishing lines of control, Brig. Gen. Halverson said.

"It's just not about equipment. It's really about how you bring the whole interagency team together to be able to provide lifesaving capabilities and to be able to stop the suffering at the local area," he said.

In 2006, the states and territories asked the Army for 11,000 pieces of equipment, Brig. Gen. Halverson said. Last year it took until September to distribute all of the equipment.

"This year we're much better prepared than we were last year," he said.

The National Guard is the first military responder in the event of a hurricane, under the control of the state governors. At the request of the governor, the president can authorize use of federal forces to assist in disaster relief, Brig. Gen. Halverson said.

(Fred W. Baker III writes for the American Forces Press Service.)