USNORTHCOM wraps up support for trio of hurricanes

By Sgt. 1st Class Gail Braymen | NORAD and USNORTHCOM Public Affairs | September 29, 2008

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – After providing assets from helicopters to high-water trucks to ships to chaplains, U.S. Northern Command is wrapping up several weeks of contingency operations for this summer and fall’s recent trio of hurricanes that struck the Gulf and East Coast.

“One of the last pieces of Department of Defense support that was put in place for Hurricane Ike – the USS Nassau – has completed its mission off the Texas coast,” said USNORTHCOM Commander Gen. Gene Renuart. Before Ike had even made landfall in Texas on Sept. 13, the Nassau was preparing to deploy from its homeport in Virginia to the Gulf of Mexico to assist with recovery efforts in the Category 2 hurricane’s aftermath.

“The people and communities of Galveston and Houston and the surrounding area were certainly dealt a severe blow by Ike, and we anticipated the worst-case scenario and provided support such as search and rescue missions,” Renuart said.

Military personnel with small boats, high-water trucks, helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft positioned themselves before Hurricane Ike struck so they could begin search and rescue operations as soon as conditions allowed. USNORTHCOM conducted a total of 27 search and rescue missions that were coordinated from the Joint Personnel Recovery Center as part of a unified federal, state and local search and rescue effort.

While the search and rescue crews have completed their missions in Texas, in Louisiana, C-130 aircraft are applying insecticide in flooded areas to help prevent mosquito infestations.

Prior to the landfall of Hurricane Gustav, USNORTHCOM oversaw the evacuation of thousands of members of the general population from New Orleans, moving them from threatened low-lying areas to safe havens in Tennessee, Texas, Kentucky and Arkansas. Before Hurricane Ike struck, the command coordinated the aeromedical evacuation of patients in the Corpus Christi, Texas, area.

“The Department of Defense has highly trained, specialized medical personnel who worked with our civilian counterparts on the ground to provide compassionate and secure in-transit care for residents in the affected area,” Renuart said.

After Hurricanes Ike and Gustav made landfall, military aircraft directed by USNORTHCOM – both manned and unmanned – provided still and video imagery that gave responders on the ground their first look at damage left behind by the storms.

For all three storms, USNORTHCOM coordinated the designation of military installations as FEMA National Logistics Staging Areas and as base support installations where military units could conduct logistical operations in support of relief efforts.

Finally, USNORTHCOM flexed its support to the Presidio area to respond to levee breaks that held homes at risk in that Southwest Texas area.

Gustav, Hanna and Ike have long since blown themselves out, but the men and women of USNORTHCOM remain ever-vigilant in their duty to protect and defend the homeland.

“We’re currently monitoring a Topical Storm  Kyle, southeast of the Carolinas that could develop into a tropical cyclone,” Renuart said. “We are constantly monitoring, evaluating and anticipating situations so that we are ready to provide unique Department of Defense support when called upon and prepared to respond to the needs of the American people.”

USNORTHCOM is the joint combatant command formed in the wake of the Sept.11, 2001 terrorist attacks to provide homeland defense and defense support of civil authorities.