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    Hurricane Florence Floodwaters

    Hurricane Florence Floodwaters

    Photo By Sgt. Ryan Rayno | Fort Jackson, South Carolina — U.S. Army Cpt. Jaclyn Christesen, a mission...... read more read more



    Story by Sgt. Shiloh Capers 

    7th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

    Fort Jackson, South Carolina — Relief efforts continue in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, a tropical storm that made landfall in North Carolina, on September 14, 2018.

    Although the hurricane fluctuated throughout its journey and its motion slowed, Florence's downpour is still a potential issue.

    As the hurricane approached and several states along the east coast declared states of emergency and ordered evacuations for counties along the hurricane's projected path, state and federal assets were preparing for action.

    Joint Task Force 51, U.S. Army North, whose mission is to rapidly deploy into disaster areas and communicate with state and federal authorities to assess the situation and determine which resources to use, were already in position at Fort Jackson. The task force is comprised of 20 full-time members and 20 augmented personnel.

    The task force is acting as liaison between multiple entities, from the National Guard to the governor's office to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The task force is also in communication with the other branches of the military, pooling resources and increasing capability.

    Furthermore, the governors of North Carolina and South Carolina approved National Guard general officers to serve as dual status commanders within their states. The dual status commander is a unique role in which an officer with specialized training has the legal authority from the state governor and the secretary of defense to command both state and federal military assets (title 32 and title 10 troops). The use of a dual status commander provides unity of command when faced with a common goal, such as disaster response and relief.

    Even granted this power as dual status commander in South Carolina, Maj. Gen. R. Van McCarty must still operate within legal boundaries. While both assets may be utilized, they must be assigned tasks accordingly. Specific tasks can only be carried out by National Guard service members.

    The National Guard knows how to operate, said Colonel Mark Aitken, chief of staff, Joint Task Force 51, U.S. Army North. What the National Guard may be missing are certain resources, which active duty units may be asked to provide.

    The task force established headquarters elements in North Carolina and South Carolina and began receiving requests and updates on the flooding.

    Federal military vehicles from Fort Stewart and Fort Bragg are already in use, like the Light Medium Tactical Vehicle. Helicopters are being utilized for land survey and are on standby for search and rescue operations.

    "If we see someone and their life or safety is in danger, we have a duty to act immediately," declared Major General John F. King. "At the end of the day, we're not going to stand by while somebody is suffering needlessly."

    Task Force 51 has been given clear guidance to lean forward, to look for gaps and to help the citizens of North Carolina and South Carolina, Maj. Gen. King said.

    "These are our neighbors, these are our friends," he said. "This could happen in any place in America and we take our role very seriously."

    At the moment, all eyes are on the rivers. Inland water is moving toward the ocean and, slowly, the water is rising. It is estimated that the rivers will crest within the next 24 to 48 hours.

    Technology helps to monitor the levels, Col. Aitken said. Sensors are in place at the rivers and flood areas, tracking water levels and movement for unexpected activity. The state of South Carolina has prepositioned sandbags and engineer equipment in place, ready to respond.

    Hurricane Florence is Aitken's fourth hurricane in a year.

    "Throughout my entire career this has been one of the most rewarding and self-gratifying jobs that I've ever had," Aitken said. "Seeing communities come together with a common focus, it really gives the term 'American spirit' new meaning for me."

    Task Force 51 is also keeping a watchful eye on the future.

    A tropical storm is forming 1,000 miles southeast of Puerto Rico. Another storm is forming in the South Atlantic with a 40 percent chance of becoming something more, currently projected to also move toward Puerto Rico.



    Date Taken: 09.20.2018
    Date Posted: 10.01.2018 14:26
    Story ID: 294529
    Location: FORT JACKSON, SC, US 

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