‘In Many Cases First Responders Can’t Get There’: National Guard Preparing Up To 30,000 Troops For Harvey


The U.S. National Guard is posturing approximately 25,000 to 30,000 Guardsman in anticipation of a request from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to respond to catastrophic flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey, U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. James C. Witham told Pentagon reporters Tuesday.

Some 1,000 active duty service members under U.S. Northern Command are also either involved or preparing to participate in search and rescue operations from the air, if called upon by Abbott. Approximately 3500 to 4000 Texas National Guardsman are also involved in search and rescue operations.

“We’re leaning as far forward as possibly can,” Witham declared, emphasizing that Secretary of Defense James Mattis has directed the Department of Defense to give state and local authorities license whatever possible to assist operations.

Witham emphasized that the National Guard response effort is unprecedented due to the sustained nature of search and rescue operations. The National Guard is also anticipating to continue operations in Louisiana in the coming days as the storm system moves across the state. Search and rescue operations are expected to continue for a “period of days if not weeks,” according to Witham.

National Guard personnel have rescued approximately 3,500 civilians and 300 pets so far, but the catastrophic flooding and ongoing weather is hindering some personnel from reaching affected areas. “The same flooding is stopping our assets from getting to them,” Witham lamented. “In many cases the first responders can’t get there,” he added, noting that the water levels are so high they prevent the deployment of high profile vehicles.

National Guard, Coast Guard, and other state assets are focused on using helicopters to hoist stranded civilians from the water and off rooftops in high water areas. Three hundred hoisting operations have already taken place from the National Guard alone.

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