In addition, four UH-60L Blackhawk helicopters and 34 soldiers assigned to the 1/230th Aviation Regiment of the Tennessee Army National Guard went to the U.S. Virgin Islands to assist in recovery efforts following Hurricane Irma.
The helicopters were loaded onto C17 Globemaster III and C130 Hercules aircraft from New York and Rhode Island at Joint Base Berry Field late Wednesday afternoon.
“That’s what the National Guard does,” said Maj. Gen. Max Haston, Tennessee adjutant general. “This is a prime example of National Guard operations, Tennessee helicopters loaded on to New York and Rhode Island Air National Guard aircraft going to assist the Virgin Islands National Guard in their recovery efforts. Once again, the National Guard lives up to its motto, and is truly ‘always ready, always there.’”
The helicopters join the Tennessee Air Guard’s118th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group and 119th Joint Incident Site Communications Capability, which are currently supporting Irma recovery operations.
“This is the third hurricane relief operation in which we have sent airmen to provide support,” said Col. Vincent Franklin, commander of the 119th CACS. The unit has previously provided support to relief operations during hurricanes Katrina and Gustov.
The 119th CACS has a unique capability of establishing communication channels when commercial systems are down. The unit also provided support to first responders and the relief coordination centers after Gatlinburg was devastated by wildfires last year. The unit can also enable state and federal agencies operating on incompatible communications systems to talk to each other.
“One of our most rewarding missions is providing assistance to our fellow countrymen,” said Franklin.
Both the Tennessee Air and Army National Guard are preparing additional units to respond should they be needed.
“We are waiting to see what, if any, assets we can provide to assist in the Hurricane Irma recovery process,” said Maj. Gen. Max Haston. “It is imperative that we wait to see what the specific needs are before committing troops and equipment to assist.”
The Tennessee National Guard is the nation’s seventh largest guard state with more than 29,000 soldiers and airmen deployed since Sept. 11, 2001.