By Sgt. Kelsey Blankenship, 382nd Public Affairs DetachmentAugust 27, 2011
KINSTON, N.C. -- The North Carolina National Guard has teamed up to support the North Carolina Emergency Management Eastern office in preparing our coast for Hurricane Irene, which makes landfall on the North Carolina coast this weekend.
"North Carolina is the first state to use LUH-72 Lakota helicopters for rescue missions. It is still very new," said Philip Leonard, a civilian rescuer with N.C. Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team (HART). "We are also the first state to put civilian rescuers on a military platform."
There are nearly 40 people currently working with N.C. HART statewide.
"There is very intense qualification to be part of N.C. HART. Rescuers have to be able to swim, run, repel, plus other tests," said Jeff Cardwell, a HART team leader with N.C. Emergency Management's western branch. Cardwell said that HART rescuers must also have a background in rescue.
Task force east has activated 148 soldiers to staging areas across the eastern part of N.C.
"I think we're in good shape. We have two National Guard force packages in place and ready to go. We have two on stand-by. We also have a lot of aviation assets ready to report as soon as the winds die down," said Dianne Curtis, Branch Manager of N.C. Emergency Management Eastern Branch Office.
Servicemembers and state emergency personnel are prepared to work long, hard hours to be sure that the job in done and the people of N.C. are safe.
"The next 24 to 48 hours of our mission are going to be recon and rescue. We have to deal with what Mother Nature has dealt us and make sure we get everyone out of harm's way. Then we will move in to recovery phase," said Curtis.
Curtis said the effects of the hurricane will last for at least a couple of weeks after the storm, and emergency management will conduct mass feeding and shelter operations for displaced persons during that time.
"Be prepared to be tired. Be prepared to be pushed out of your comfort zone. It's going to take all of our effort and all of our energy, but I know you guys can do it," said Curtis.
Currently servicememebers are waiting out Hurricane Irene in armories and fire stations across the state. Soldiers are prepared to leave at any moment's notice day or night to be sure N.C. and its residents are taken care of and safe.